4 Stages of a Thought Leadership Maturity Model


Here is a great piece on the maturity of a company’s Thought Leadership program by ITSMA.

Last year I was asked by ITSMA to collaborate on this piece with them. They also tapped into companies like Deloitte, E&Y, IBM, Coginzant, SAP and more.

What came out is quite interesting for any company looking to take their thought leadership program to the next level. Here are a few points I pulled out to highlight for you that can help you make the case internally:

  • 79% of would-be buyers say thought leadership is important to critical to determining which providers they want to learn more about
  • 75% of would-be buyers say thought leadership helps them determine which buyers to put on their short list
  • Traditional format for thought leadership has been the white paper but in this era of digital and social that isn’t enough
  • To reap the benefits of a thought leadership program you must have SME’s that are recognized outside of your company
  • Interaction with SME’s in social media improves the ability to communicate key thought leadership ideas

Click here for a full copy of the report on the 4 Stages of a Thought Leadership Maturity Model


Interview with Dave Chaffey of Smart Insights


This week I had the pleasure of reading a new report from Smart Insights on the State of Digital Marketing 2015 and decided to dig in a bit further with an interview. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dave or Smart Insights – Dave Chaffey is CEO of Smart Insights, a publisher of planning templates and articles focusing on Digital Strategy with channels on B2B Marketing and Marketing automation. The following is an excerpt from our discussion, I hope you enjoy it.

1) What do you think the biggest change to Digital Marketing for B2B firms will be in the next year?

I think content personalization is the biggest opportunity into 2016 for B2B Marketers. Most B2B service marketers know the value of tailored landing pages to drive traffic and capture leads for niche B2B buyer personas. Let’s face it, these options have been around for fifteen years – your question takes me back to a workshop I did for Siebel systems around then, before they became part of Oracle. We were looking at optimizing targeted landing pages through Siebel for different search behaviors even then before some of today’s well-known marketing automation services like HubSpot, Marketo and Salesforce were even established. These types of services and many others have made scalable lead generation affordable for businesses, but I often feel the potential for lead scoring and lead nurture through personalization isn’t being exploited as much as it could.

At SmartInsights.com, for example, our home page and member benefits pages are tailored by role based on their registration – so a marketing manager gets a different message and different content than say an agency manager. We setup our personalization rules in WordPress, but for marketers who don’t role their own there are many plugins and services to support greater B2B personalization, for example BrightInfo, Evergage and Marketizator to name three players. Again this approach isn’t new technically innovative, but it is underexploited. It is getting more sophisticated with automated content recommendations based on profile and content consumption – for example Idio can be used by larger businesses for this.

2) What do you see as the biggest mistakes being made in Digital Marketing by B2B firms?

The most common mistake I see is getting the balance of Content Marketing activities wrong. We all know content marketing is at the heart of digital marketing, yet often content marketing strategies don’t invest sufficient in the right range of content across the buying cycle and by content I am referring to our Content Marketing Matrix which helps businesses review the best types. The CMM also helps you think about the right balance of what Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner called nuclear and primary fuel. You need to invest in that emotion-inducing or shareable content that cuts through otherwise others who have made that investment will win across the channels whether that is SEO, Social media or Email marketing.

Then there’s content distribution… putting the investment into marketing the content you have invested in. Here there must be the right balance between paid, owned and earned media. Paid media, remarketing or retargeting through AdWords, LinkedIn or Facebook helps remind prospects about your services so it’s a mistake to miss this – it gives probably the best paid digital media ROI available. With Earned media it’s about putting the time into influencer outreach – it’s a popular buzz word, but few do this as well in my experience.

3) What one Digital Marketing tactic should a B2B Marketer adopt in the next year?

Simple – Retargeting using paid media as mentioned in my previous answer – if you’re not doing already it’s a great opportunity. If you are, there are new options available all the time, like the recent launch of the LinkedIn ‘Lead Accelerator’. You can review the options on our Content Distribution matrix.

4) What one Digital Marketing tactic should a B2B Marketer stop in the next year?

That’s tricky Paul, because we believe that any tactic can be optimized and most techniques can be made to work. If you’re not getting ROI from digital media that has to stop! But I’ll give you a simple marketing automation technique that any B2B marketer can apply – stop sending out welcome sequences that aren’t targeted, i.e. one-size fits all welcome emails. Since you collect the profile information of a prospect when they subscribe it’s a ‘no-brainer’ to target by role or vertical or need – whatever will give you the biggest uplift and different points in the lead nurturing.

Talking of Marketing Automation, we have a new survey on the opinions on Marketing Automation of B2B marketers in 2015 just launched. We’d love it if your readers can share their experiences and of course they’ll get the research report when it’s completed.

Integrating Listening Into Your Platform for ROI


This week I moderated another Social Media Today webinar as part of their Best Thinker webinar series, this time on the topic of Way Beyond Listening: Integrating Listening Into Your Platform for ROI. This webinar was sponsored by Synthesio and featured Brian Melinat (@brianmelinat) Director of Marketing Analytics within Dell, Kristine Vick (@kristinevick) Principal in the Digital and Content team at SAS, and Ben Lapidus (@benlapidus) Senior Sales Engineer at Synthesio. We discussed nine ways companies have found to connect social media to revenue and ROI.

Here are nine ways to connect Social Media to Revenue and ultimately ROI

  1. Map your social activities to all 4 stages of a customer journey: Awareness, Acquisition, Activation and Retention
  2. Connect social media to all marketing campaigns to gauge response
  3. Connect social media to SEO activities to increase SEO
  4. Plot your social media sentiment against your NPS scores
  5. Provide delightful customer support
  6. Listen for Lead Gen opportunities
  7. Use social for new product ideas
  8. Use social media to vet pricing of new products
  9. Use social media for M&A ideas in your product lines

To get a copy of the slides or to listen to the replay, please click here. You can also scan the highlights of this webinar on Twitter by reading the Storify below. Our next webinar is titled To LinkIn or Not to LinkIn: Getting Ahead of Your Competitors with Innovative Strategies; be sure to sign up for it or view the schedule of other upcoming webinars here.


Connecting Your Enterprise: Collaboration at Scale


Last week I moderated another Social Media Today webinar as part of their Best Thinker webinar series, this time on the topic of Connecting Your Enterprise: Collaboration at Scale. This webinar was sponsored by Tracx and featured Nolan Carleton (@ParsleyCarleton) Lead Consultant Program Execution at AT&T, DeShelia Spann (@DeSheliaSpann) Digital Marketing Strategist at Eaton and Danielle Gerson (@tracx) solutions engineer at Tracx. We discussed how to setup an environment that cultivates growth and scale in social media.

Here are three of the key takeaways:

  1. Start Silo Busting – Most enterprises start out in a segmented environment where by multiple departments are roles are isolated from one another and using their own social media point solutions and environments. Getting those silos to come down using one software solution is the first step to greater collaboration and scale in social.
  2. Engage your Employees – An obvious place to help scale your efforts once a unified social media platform is in place is leveraging your employee advocates to help get the word out.
  3. Watch out for Disjointed Workflow – Nothing hurts your ability to scale like disjointed workflow such as groups publishing in a vacuum or keeping their own datasets separated from the rest of the organization.

To get a copy of the slides or to listen to the replay, please click here. You can also scan the highlights of this webinar on Twitter by reading the Storify below. Our next webinar is titled Way Beyond Listening: Integrating Listening Into Your Platform for ROI; be sure to sign up for it or view the schedule of other upcoming webinars here.


The State of Digital Marketing 2015


With mid-year coming up and summertime upon us, many marketers are taking stock of the first half of the year and re-checking their Digital Marketing plans to finish out 2015 strong.

So I’d like to offer you some statistics I found eye-opening from a recent report published by Smart Insights:

  • One half (50%) of businesses surveyed do not have a defined digital plan or strategy, although they are active in digital marketing.
  • Nearly 60% of peoples’ time is now devoted to digital marketing activities, showing the importance of skills development in this area.

The point-counterpoint is just so stark I couldn’t help but write about this.

For any CMO, developing the skills of their team should always be a top issue. You can’t have a high performing team with spotty skills especially in the area of digital marketing. Whether that’s as simple as; how to write an effective tweet, to how to write for the web, or how to write a pay-per-click advertising the common denominator is content and writing.

Summertime is a great time to do a bunch of Lunch and Learns across your team why not consider a series of weekly lunch and learns to get the skill level across your entire team up! Here’s an infographic with more great stats – hope you enjoy!

12 Secrets of the Human Brain to Use in Marketing

Knowing how the human mind processes information and images—and putting that knowledge to use—can help you become a more engaging and effective marketer.

Here’s a look at some fascinating facts about the human mind, from a marketing perspective.

12-Secrets-of-the-Human-Brain FINAL

5 Reasons Your Mobile Strategy Isn’t Working

Whether you completely neglected to build a website for your mobile platform or there’s a lacking call to action, there are common mobile faux pas than can result in lost loyalty, brand following and even support.


Interview with Simon Sinek – Start With Why


I had a chance to catch up with fellow author, Simon Sinek to discuss his book called – Start With Why at the World Business Forum held in New York at Radio City Music Hall on October 7-8. My goal was to go a bit more in-depth on how to get started for B2B marketers, hope you enjoy the interview.

For those that follow this blog but are not yet familiar with your book Start with Why, give us little background.

A few years ago, I discovered that every single organization on the planet, even our own careers always function on the same three levels: what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. Everybody knows what they do. It’s the products we sell or the services we offer. Some know how we do it. It’s whatever you call it, your differentiating value proposition, your USP, the things that you think make you different or stand out from the crowd. But very few people and very few organizations can clearly articulate why they do what they do. But why I don’t mean to make money. That’s a result. I mean what’s your purpose, what’s your cause, what’s your belief, why does your company exist. And those that understand the why can clearly communicate it have an unbalanced amount of influence and success and loyalty in the marketplace with greater ability to innovate on all the rest of it.

Can every company have a why?

Not only can a big company have a why, every company does have a why. It comes from the founder. It’s the reason why they started the company. Those that are started from market opportunity, I read this article in a magazine and I realize that those tend to be very weak and they tend to not do well. But when a human being personally suffered or people close to them personally suffered something and they found a solution to whatever that problem was and that was the birth of the company, that’s a clear purpose.

Where’s the right place for a marketer to get started?

A good place to start is when companies are formed around real problems. It has to be born out of the cause of the founder. If it wasn’t a specific problem, then that founder has their own why, and the company is formed in their own cause.   Virgin is Richard Branson. It’s the same thing. So you can usually go to the personality or the cause, the why of that founder.

How do you make it stick with the organization?

The why is the sticky part because it’s the visceral part. The why talks directly to the limbic brain, which is the part of the brain that makes decisions. It’s the emotion and feeling part of the brain. So when we start with why, that’s what makes it sticky. You can start with what and people might enjoy it for a moment. You describe the product, what it does, and it may or may not appeal to some people. But it’s the why that makes it interesting and makes people viscerally connected to it.

How do you make a strong why work in a B2B professional services organization?

The good news is that even consultants, accountants, or engineers are still human beings. So as much as they like to believe that all of their behavior is rational, it’s not. Otherwise they would only buy the cheapest product and they would never be loyal to anything. When the why is clearly communicated, it viscerally appeals to people, and they feel connected. And being a part of an organization with a clear sense of why becomes part of our self-identity. We wear the tee-shirt that they gave us at the company picnic. We don’t wear it to bed or paint the house. We wear it with pride and don’t want it to get dirty because it’s part of our self-identity.

Why Sustainable Competitive Advantage is so 1990

Rita McGrath

I had a chance to catch up with Columbia Business School professor and fellow author, Rita McGrath to discuss her latest book called – The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). I also look forward to seeing her speak about this topic at the upcoming World Business Forum held in New York at Radio City Music Hall on October 7-8.

Tell us why sustainable competitive advantage really a failed notion these days?

Because it causes companies to do a lot of dysfunctional things like just focusing on the bottom line.  If you’re looking for things to stay the same and you’re looking for reasons to keep just doing what you’re doing every day, then chances are that you’re going to be taken by surprise by the changes in the environment or changes in the competitive intensity of your business or things that are just not going to take you in a positive direction.

So the assumption that change is the weird thing and stability is the normal thing is something that causes a lot of companies to get taken by surprise.  That’s why I argue that if you have this bias for sustainable (as in long-lasting, not as environmentally sustainable) it sets you up to make a lot of poor decisions in an environment that’s changing rapidly.

So how should companies think about and organize themselves to take advantage of short-term sustainable advantages?

The first big thing that companies need to do is to look at the elements of their business portfolio as an integrated whole, see that some things you’re doing that are driving today’s core business and that are going to continue to drive tomorrow’s core business.   And you should keep doing them.  Then you’ve got some things that you’re investing in which may be candidates to be part of the next generation core business, things that you’re doing today that could lead to a big, healthy business in the future.  When Apple – just to take a common example – goes from making computers to making music players, but that’s an investment in one of these new platforms.

Then you’ve got to have things that you’re working on that are what I call “options,” which are small investments you’re making today that buy you the right but not the obligation to make some kind of future investments or take advantage of some future opportunity but that you don’t necessarily have to follow through on.

What does “good” in this new age look like?

If you look in the book, there’s this set of ten growth outliers that I think get a lot of this right. The kinds of things that they’re good at doing are letting their structure change as their business opportunities change.  Things like making sure that leaders don’t get too calcified in any one role or any one spot.  Making sure that they do things fast, they make decisions quickly.  Their pace is quicker than a lot of other firms.

The problem with a lot of companies, particularly with respect to things like innovation, is that their structures were built to serve some of their business purpose in the past.  So the structure they have today was built to help deliver yesterday’s business.  When tomorrow’s business requires doing something different, you might need a different structure to go after it.  But very often, the phrase I hear all the time is it “falls between the cracks” of the existing business.  So what you want to be thinking about is building the right structure to deliver the business of the future.

What role can marketing play in helping to define a new opportunity?  Is it the classic role that marketing plays, or is it something more?

I think it’s something different, and I think the world of marketing is about to undergo the most ginormous upheaval.  And it has to do with the fact that on the one hand, the analytics that form the cornerstone of traditional marketing are really changing rapidly.  When I was doing my PhD, it was all about conjoint analysis and co-word grouping and feature-function maps.  Today with the advent of big data and the ability to combine data across many different, previous-unrelated databases, the onus on marketing to get really smart about how they use data and what discoveries they find from them is going to be very strong.  There’s going to be a huge amount of pressure for that.

So I’ll give you a specific example.  My colleague at Columbia, Oded Netzer did a big data project involving the use of the entire Edmunds database.  It was a big, involved study, but he was able to use social media mentions from the Edmunds database to identify the General Motors push to rebrand the Cadillac to be more in line with a European luxury car and less like an American family car, which is how many people were beginning to think of it.  He was able to demonstrate that that a particular set of investments actually got traction in the perception of the brand using only social media.  I think that’s totally different than a lot of the tools that are in the marketing toolkit today.

What could this mean for the average marketer’s career?  What does the ability to take advantage of these sorts of transient advantages mean for marketers?

I would suggest – don’t let yourself get stale.  My watchwords are – if you come to work every day and all you’re doing is coming to work every day, you’ve got a long-term problem!

Moreover you’ve really got to know what’s going on out there.  And I’ll give an example of a friend of mine at a big publishing company.  She’d been let go and was meeting with a friend of mine who runs the learning and development department of this particular company.  This marketing woman was saying I can’t get interviews.  Or if she got interviews, she didn’t get offers because they want to know about things like search engine optimization, big data, social, and she had never had to learn any of that stuff.  My friend meanwhile was completely outraged because she had arranged for online courses this woman could have taken advantage of, but she didn’t.  The woman just came to work and did her job.  As a consequence, she wasn’t even aware that a lot of this stuff was beginning to become a real for any company she considered going to.

So the point is I think you’d need to constantly be thinking about where are your skills in relationship to where the demand is going to be?  Are you learning new things?  Even if you don’t directly and immediately see the connection between your job and those skills, are you learning something new on a regular basis?

Using Insights to Tame the Strategic Planning Beast

Competitive Advantage

With the proper planning and strategic thinking, a competitive advantage is something that your company can definitely create in today’s dynamic and fast moving marketplace of business niches.

Furthermore, your business can become particularly competitive in capturing those magical areas of competitive advantage if you can learn how to really understand your consumer market and the desires of your customers. Luckily, this can be done through the application of a more modern approach to strategic planning as we’re about to cover now.

The rewards of going through the strategic planning steps we’re about to cover cannot be understated. By learning to truly understand your customers and use that knowledge for planning your business strategy, you’ll be able to outpace your competitors, improve your brand image and develop client loyalty in a dramatic way that improves your bottom line.

Fortunately, for those who are really interested in this kind of consumer centric planning strategy, there is a detailed and highly informative new ebook I ran across from the people at Insights In Marketing which is packed with practical advice. Here is an overview of that advice.

Strategic Planning in a Nutshell

In essential terms, strategic planning involves taking advantage of expansive customer and market research to gain insights on your overall market, your competition and, most importantly, your actual customers. With this information, you can then build a thoroughly fleshed out strategy for staying ahead of the curve in terms of delivering the right products to its best possible customer as often as possible.

Strategic planning involves asking yourself some probing questions about where your business is headed, how you think it should get there and then using the answers to these questions for achieving the goals you really want to see come to fruition.

The Value of Serious Customer Research

The core of truly effective strategic planning lies in researching your customers in deep detail and really getting to know them. As the strategic planning ebook explains, there are many aspects of the research your company is going to have to do if it wants to really make an effective competitive advantage come to the fore.

The most crucial part of this data gathering will mean finding out as much of the key information about your customers as you possibly can and then using it for product development, better customer service and improved brand development.  You need to find your customers drives, desires and real passions as they relate to your niche in the marketplace.

This process really starts off with something called a consumer insights audit, which helps you understand the following essentials about your consumers:

  • Their general habits
  • Their most often used media and communications tools
  • Their awareness of ads and their habits for viewing them
  • General buying and browsing habits
  • Where they consume content most often on the web
  • Their use of your particular brand and how aware they are of you
  • The perception your brand and product offering creates

Finding the Ideal Offer for the Ideal Customer

Through the kind of deeply targeted research of your customers that we just listed, and by applying its insights to your existing business and consumer market, what you can really hope to achieve is the holy grail of effective business promotion. This holy grail consists of finding your ideal, “perfect” customer and delivering to them the offer they absolutely perceive themselves to need for solving their problems and doing this better than any of your competitors is capable of achieving.

If you can pull this feat off, you have the effective equivalent of a secret weapon working for you. Why? Because customers who really feel like you understand them and are serving their needs will be extremely loyal to your brand for the long run and for any new offers you develop.

Furthermore, these kinds of customers will spread the word on your behalf to others who are in the same situation as them. This is the kind of marketing and promotion that’s worth a lot more than any paid advertisements and it goes a long way towards making you immune to competitors.

Developing the kind of consumer insights culture that deep research of both needs and customer psychology applied regularly will help you outpace your competitors. You don’t want to be in a race to the bottom with your competitors. Instead, you want to beat them by knowing your customers and winning their loyalty through that knowledge.

For a more in-depth look at this topic, you can check out the details in this ebook by Insights in Marketing.