As to my background and credentials as editor of this publication: I began my career as a sports journalist, where I worked closely with Sports Illustrated, and later as a reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer and as Weekend Night Sports Editor for the Cincinnati Post. I moved on to work as a copywriter in the marketing department at Union Central Life, then one of the top 50 insurance companies in the US. My next stint was as a Marketing Manager for KDI Corporation, a high-tech A&D conglomerate. From there I served for a couple of years as a writer and account executive at a promotion agency, working for Champion Spark Plugs, Owens-Corning and Jeep. I did a stint as editor of an international trade magazine and then made the jump to marketing management at a chemical company, and later at NuTone, a manufacturer of home building products. That’s when I made the big jump, opening a sales promotion agency with partners Richard Blumberg and Barron Krody. Over the next two decades we built the agency up to one of the 50 largest in the US, serving Procter & Gamble, Toshiba, Florida Power & Light, 3M, Imation, Quaker State, Pillsbury, St. Paul Insurance, among others. I sold the agency to join Cincom Systems — the oldest software company still in existence — where I worked with a phenomenal group of marketers as Marketing Director for Manufacturing Customer Strategies and to manage marketing programs with Microsoft Dynamics, our primary business partner . I retired from Cincom at the end of 2015 to put renewed focus on this online magazine.

Content is the New Currency for Improved Customer Experience

Content is becoming the cornerstone to effective customer experience marketing. The content we publish online or offline will help pull prospective customers to you. That is, if the content is relevant and establishes how the customer’s experience will be more positive if they select you rather than another customer.

Why is content so critical to the customer experience?

Simply because no matter where a customer is in the buying cycle, it is your content that is telling them what to expect if they select you as a provider. Your content establishes a bond, it is a promise.

The big change in marketing in recent years is that customers are learning how to use the internet to find the kind of content that will help them understand their situation more clearly, will help them see new potential issues to their business problems, will reveal the passion that drives your business and your solutions in such a way that they can sense that they will get a better experience if they select you over a competitor.

In the years to come, we predict that prospective customers will aggressively seek out content that is useful. If they are in an early stage where they are just trying to understand what problem they have and why they have it, your content must guide them toward a better understanding of their situation. You are teaching them; not yet selling them. Too many marketers cannot wait to get their brand story into the hands of prospects … and at some point in the buying cycle this is important. But not at the start of the buying cycle. This is a key element in designing a content strategy that will gradually pull customers into your arms. Listen before you teach. Teach before you sell. Gain trust and credibility. Then begin to present how your brand uniquely resolves the kinds of problems they are experiencing.

This kind of content strategy will lead to a better customer experience.

Social Technology Can Boost Delivery of Improved Customer Experience

Microsoft CustomerIn 2006, Accenture began experimenting with what they called digital mirrors–technologies that interpreted behavior to cause self-improvement. For example, they could monitor your phone calls to determine how often you interrupted your caller to talk about yourself. We all know people like that, but the seem unable to control this irritating habit. But if an interrupter suspected his friends were drifting away, he might be ready for self-improvement.

The digital mirror would give factual data to make the behavior more apparent and more motivating to the person to improve his interpersonal relationships. Soon it became apparent that digital mirrors could impact selling, as well. Persuasion is the business we all are in, in one way or another. Can a digital mirror tell us if we are talking with an indifferent prospect who simply will not change his mind so we should move on to the next prospect? Or do we have a chance of changing a prospect’s point of view so we can help them see how our product or service can provide her a better solution and an improved customer experience?

cortana phoneMicrosoft’s Cortana is likely moving in a direction where she can detect signals in a situation so that she can guide a salesperson to conduct a more relevant conversation or even motivate a buyer to select one recommendation over another option.

Cincom has recently launched a new version of it Configure, Price Quote Solution that now has a unique recommendation engine. This enables dealers using the Cincom CPQ Solution to determine customer needs and to factor those needs into a product selection that fits exactly the needs of each different customer. This makes a dealer easier to buy from and it makes for a far superior customer experience.

Dan Zarrella created a Twitter tool called TweetPsych that analyzes Tweets from you, or anyone else (such as a prospect) to determine important qualifies about the Tweeter. His technology compares your Tweets against dictionaries that are based on various psychological profiles that reveal inner attitudes. Are you positive or negative about a product? How do you make decisions? And how can you turn this psychological profile to your advantage?

When you look at the amount of digital data Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have about everyone using their social services, you can begin to see the potential they have of moving visitors to advertised products that can better meet customer needs.

The result–if used in an honest manner–can improve customer experience instead of the social service’s bottom line. In time, marketers and sales people will learn how to adapt their persuasive conversations with new insights. We all need to be wise in how to do this to make sure we are always putting the customer’s needs first

B2B Buyers Kick Your Tires INVISIBLE to you … What you can do about it!

ID-10097640 (2)B2B buyers are great at kicking the tire well before they are ready to talk to your sales team. We’re all familiar with the new fact that B2B buyers are often 60% of the way into their buying process before bringing your sales team into the process. But all along the way of getting half way to a buying decision, they are online checking you out. It’s their way of kicking the tire to see who they want to do business with.

If a company is considering a purchase that involves several people to collaborate on this purchase, they will be in team conversations, often guided by content that one or more of them happen to find while searching.

Their online behavior when accessing our content provides indicators of motivations and interests. We need to provide both inspirational and factual content. We need to realize that mindsets are hard to change unless while in the formative stages. Consider just how locked in we become to a particular point of view … 50% of Americans are conservative and 50% are liberal. Instead of changing their POVs, come to them with content that they want to read and reinforces their point of view.

Also need to realize that buyers retain information to read or view later, when they have more time or when they are moving closer to some sort of decision. I can see that articles on CEM blog are accessed months and often years after it was written. I save tons of content that sounds useful by putting it into topic folders on my laptop and access it later. I may think that there is a potential need my company will have in the future so I curate a library that might be accessed later, or sometimes is never accessed because as time moves along, either no purchase is considered or because some entirely different solution made a purchase no longer needed.

The fact that any buying process I might enter in the future is pursued at my own pace and that I am not moving through a traditional or progressive “buying funnel” but instead I am hoping all over the place. It may appear that I have fallen out of a company’s “sales funnel” when really all I did was work on other priorities, many of which have no relevance to buying anything.

One thing, however, is certain. When I am involved in purchasing something, I do go through some repetitive behaviors online and I look for different kinds of content as I move forward. If I am unaware of a vendor, then I am not likely to have that vendor in my path.

How do we make sure buying stage content will be consumed at the right time? We need to create and post content for all stages and as they consume content it can tell us where they are in process of looking for a solution to a need. When they access content that address aspirations or challenges we can assume they are in an early investigative stage.

At the end of each piece of content, include links to more similar content and links to content more helpful to a buyer who has more advanced information needs. These calls to action or CTAs need to be a standard part of all content created. If they are unknown prospects, seek to capture their email address and name in your CRM or Marketing Automation database … it they are a known prospect already in your database, then use progressive profiling to learn something new about the prospect.

Either way, return an email with links to relevant content.  Set an alert if they click through to content that is pulling them forward in the buying process. Move from an abstract relationship to a more well defined one. Leave a voicemail message that introduces your telemarketing or inside sales representative and encourages the prospect to call for assistance. Have your sales representative send a personal email from Outlook and track if the email is opened and if it creates a click through to additional content.

Start by talking about generic solutions that are relevant to customer behavior. Gain the prospect’s trust by being helpful before you launch into selling your solution to the customer’s issues. If the prospect falls silent, they may have decided timing is not right for advancing in the buying process. Use this behavior to launch a pre-programmed nurture campaign of four or five steps, each step offers new content and a CTA.

This approach works when there is trust between marketing and sales. Marketing moves prospects from awareness or mildly interested stages and hands the prospect off to sales. Anticipate that the prospect will move in and out of the process; seldom is buying a linear flow from beginning to close. If you understand how buyers buy, then anticipate their behavior and have content or CTAs that re-capture and re-engage.

Photo from debspoons and 

Is Your Customer Profitability a Broken Engine?

woman with broken car ID-100114167Customer profitability is a fragile thing. If not maintained, it can go the same way as a car breakdown.

Have you seen a decrease in customer retention or new customer sales? Or conversely, maybe you’re seeing an increase in customers, but not a proportionate increase in profit? Not knowing your customer needs will not only influence customer retention and new sales, it can cause you to introduce the wrong products for the wrong reasons, and affect your overall profitability. In essence, not understanding your customer base will have a direct impact on your entire business.

  • You have increased number of customers or market share without a proportionate increase in profitability
  • You are getting strong pressure from analysts and shareholders to increase your stock value
  • You seem unable to create products, programs or sales channels that encourage customers to behave profitably
  • Your existing customers do not purchase additional products that you offer
  • You  lack a clear view of customer value across operating divisions


Image courtesy of “anankkml” via

How to do Social Selling that also Improves the Customer Experience

Here’s the problem with B2B selling today.  Eighty percent of buyers journey through their buying process without contacting a salesperson. They know more about you than you know about them. They only need you to do a final trust check and negotiate the price alongside your competitors. There was no selling cycle. The buyer also cut herself short. By not taking the time to get to know you she has actually increased her risk that the ultimate experience as a customer might not match her aspirations as well as if she had taken the time to get to know you along the way.

Ask yourself how the buyer got so deep into a decision process without including you. She did this by talking with peers and trusted influencers. Their opinions are more important than most of the conversations she has had with companies bent on selling her something she may not need. So she goes to her contacts in LinkedIn, she reads trusted influencers on Twitter, she views discussions on YouTube, she checks out blogs. And she performs a variety of searches on Google or Bing.

There is a solution.

Be there with the buyer and her colleagues as the behind-the-scene buyer journey unfolds. Get a personal understanding of the buyer: her interests, her needs, her circles of influence. Don’t, whatever you do, pitch your product before she is ready to ask for your input on your solution. Instead, help the buyer make good decisions along the way—good decisions for her. Put the buyer’s needs ahead of your own. Become trusted because you are trustworthy.

Good question. How do you do this?

Glad you asked, because there is a way to do this that will get you into the conversation early. You can do this almost as silently as the buyer is attempting to run along the purchase journey without you.

The first thing you need in place is a firm partnership with your marketing teammates. Together, you can build out a portfolio of content in every medium possible—content that addresses the kinds of questions the buyer is asking. If the content is truly about helping the buyer make the best possible decision, she will find it useful when she finds it on the web. Well thought-out content that helps the buyers resolve their quest for solutions to help them achieve their aspirations and overcome the challenges that stand in the way of their aspirations.

A piece published in Harvard Business Review over ten years ago suggests several principles that apply even more to the online world than to traditional marketing and sales back then. “Harnessing the Science of Persuasion” by Robert  Cialdini gave us all the direction for engaging in the buyer’s quest:

  1. Be likable. People like those they who like them.
  2. Give before you ask. People pay in kind and trust those who help them.
  3. Use influence. Become a source of knowledge to these influencers.
  4. Be consistent. People distrust flip-floppers.
  5. Be an authority. Publish your own content on your blog or as comments on other media.
  6. Be exclusive. The first to share rare or exclusive information become valued sources.

Now, don’t think for a second that you can fake mastery of Cialdini’s six principles. I would add a seventh. Don’t fake sincerity. People will spot the wolf in sheep’s clothing. To be successful today in marketing and sales, you must really care about the customer’s experience even more than making a sale. The huckster of the past cannot compete in social selling because sooner or later he will stumble over the tripwire and tell a fib to gain leverage. One fib will destroy trust and credibility and will raise the risk of working with you to a level that is unacceptable to the buyer.

Okay, so far, we understand the buyer’s journey. And at a high level , we have a solution: Get in on the conversation. And we have a bedrock of principles that can make participating in the buyer’s journey more successful.

Next, we will provide a few insights into how you get in on the conversation.

Decide what conversations you want to be in on. This will not look a whole lot different than traditional direct marketing and selling. You need to know the individuals at your targeted accounts. No easy way to do this. It takes time but it will put you out ahead in the race for revenue and President’s Club.

Our suggestion is to go to the corporate sites on LinkedIn, G+, Twitter and Facebook and watch the conversation they are having, most likely with their potential customers. Make note of key individuals and influencers within your targeted prospects. Search these same social networks for individuals working at these companies . . . for example, you believe XYZ company could benefit from your product, then enter the company name in the LinkedIn search and take note of all the names that come back. Look these people up and check out their profiles to see if you should be following them on LinkedIn. Check the same people on the other social networks and follow them there, as well. Search their names on Google, Bing or IE to see what you can learn about them. Carefully build out your list of people with whom you need to be following.

Now find out who influences the people you want to follow. Who are they listening to when they make buying decisions. Go to their list of contacts in LinkedIn or their followers on the other social networks. Who are your contacts following? Which influencers are most likely to have impact in your industry or in the kinds of problems your company solves. These people hold the power to recommend you as someone with knowledge that could help them solve their problems. Add these influencers to your list of people you follow. Keep track of the conversations.

Begin to monitor the conversations that have been happening behind your back.

Jump in with a comment or send them content relevant to their conversations. Be helpful. Do this often enough and they likely will notice and begin following you. Now they have joined your conversation where you post content of your own or relevant content that your marketing department has published. LinkedIn, Slideshare, Twitter and Google Plus are heavily used for business oriented conversations. Facebook, can lead you to a different understanding of the people you are following–less business and more social– but you will find conversations here that are more personal and may be helpful in starting up conversations.

Now instead of the prospective buyer going 80% of the way on their buying journey, you are already in the conversation. You have provided them useful content. You have influenced their visit to your website where they can learn more about your offerings.

You are now inside the conversation while your competitors are wondering where their next sales lead is going to come from.

Content has Always been King of Marketing. It’s just Different Today.

The power of unique, quality content used to support B2B marketing strategies has been self-evident as a way of capturing audiences for over a century. But since the Internet put the customer in charge, it is now mandatory that corporate marketing departments and their agencies think more like publishers than traditional marketers. (Scene from P&G’s Guiding Lightsoap opera at left)

John Deere’s The Furrow Magazine

One of the earliest examples of content marketing that we have found was an 1895 John Deere project where they published The Furrow magazine—a magazine still being published today. Deere was selling complex farm equipment with extended sales cycles. Deere recognized they could not sell until the farmer was ready to buy. The Furrowwas part of a longitudinal nurturing strategy to stay in touch and keep awareness high until the moment the farmer was ready for a new piece of equipment. They were ahead of their times.

The early days of “As the World Turns”

For Procter & Gamble, marketing to consumers called for the same longitudinal presence so that every time a housewife was pulling products off the grocery shelf, they would pull a P & G brand. They created the soap opera, first on radio and then television. P&G even created its own radio soap opera shows in addition to the commercials touting their products. They built a production subsidiary in 1940 to produce radio programs and in 1950 produced the first network television soap opera. In all, P&G Productions created 20 soap operas on radio and television, becoming a pioneer in producing award-winning daytime serials like “Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns”—which finally left the air in September, 2009. The time had come to shift from producing TV dramas. The primary audience of women were now working who were losing interest in their once favorite shows. It was time for P&G to change. Still, however, contextual content was the king of the hill. The P&G branding strategy shifted to new media with online informational educational content and social media.

Marketing the Customer Experience: Contextual Profiling Techniques

Most online advertising (Google Adwords or similar relevance-based ads on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) are what many marketers think of when they hear contextual marketing. That is too-limited a definition for such an important concept as contextual or relevance-based content marketing.

What we are talking about here goes well beyond contextual advertising on search engines and social sites. We are talking about how any marketer can use context of similar profiles in their prospect database to launch outbound and inbound marketing campaigns, product recommendations and even personally configured products that are so matched to the individual’s or the segment’s situation that the prospect wants to interact with you.

Customer understanding is the foundation of contextual marketing. You simply cannot create a contextual relationship unless you know the customer’s aspirations and concerns. This knowledge needs to be acquired before you launch a contextual program, and it needs to be kept up-to-date to stay relevant.

Structured Interview-based research can get to the heart of customers. Get 30-50 customers talking about their needs, aspirations and interests. Record and transcribe the interviews and then underline key phrases that occur consistently. These phrases begin to form a picture of the various personas in your marketplace based on what they want from you. Then build your initial contextual content to address what is important to them rather than corporate content that is not relevant to your prospects and customers.

Another way to observe customers is to join business groups on LinkedIn and get actively involved in the discussions. Or form a User Group of your own customers such as the Eloqua Experience (shown in bove aphoto) for users of its marketing automation technology, or an Advisory Group of your prime prospects and listen to what they are trying to get out of their days at work. Google + has introduced yet another way to learn about specific contacts who have significant online activity. This new social network posts current information about individual people, their YouTube video, their photographic images, etc. Take advantage of the new tools as them emerge to learn about your current and prospective customers.


Nothing is More Important to Marketing than Customer Context

By Dale Wolf

Context is the connector to the customer. It establishes relevance to what the customer needs or is interested in. If we deliver a marvelous experience at every touchpoint, our chances of being listened to go up rapidly. The customer experience is often both emotional and realistic. It takes research about customer needs to make sure you are capable of delivering a better experience than any other competitor.

Companies that have mastered the ability to deliver contextually relevant messaging based on individual end-user requirements can then offer contextual services as Apple’s Genius Bar or Nike’s “build your own shoe” or the ability to keep track of an important package being delivered by UPS or personalized financial advice from “Chuck” – all to increase customer satisfaction.

What is Context?

Context is the interrelated conditions in which information or activity exists with other situational events that impact decision making and the final outcome. What do we aspire out of our lives? What are the barriers? What defines our world view? Are we willing to look at alternatives to turn barriers into positives? Are we control freaks? Are we trapped into situations or conditions that we fail to see a way for improving our condition. Is family the most important attribute that defines how we act? Or is it success or respect? Or protecting our silo at work—even if better ideas come along that could threaten the silo? What is it that we want our of our careers?

All significant decisions occur within a context. Every action occurs within a context. All consumption occurs within a context so not addressing it leaves you with a less efficient marketing program. The more you understand my context or that of people similar to me, the less information you have to give me while serving me more efficiently and effectively.

What is Contextual Marketing?

Marketing is contextual when it is made relevant to each individual prospect’s situation (the prospect’s fine-grained profile of demographics and informational interests, location, timing, needs and decision process) while also addressing the needs of the sponsoring enterprise (awareness, positioning, qualification, barrier identification, trust, closure). Contextual marketing brings customer and seller together so that customers can make better decisions, faster and easier.

  • Location context—a prospect is in on a business trip or is in the mall where you sell medical devices or at a convention hall where you have a booth
  • Job Role/Department–a prospect’s point of view shifts dramatically with different responsibilities
  • Life-cycle context—a prospect has just been promoted or bought a house or had a baby or made the 100% Sales Club
  • Behavioral—a prospect is browsing your website and clicked your demo video, has complained on Google + that his CRM system just lost valuable data and he is madder than hell, or joined an online group
  • Event related—the stock market just took a plunge, or the prospect tweeted about reading a book with relevance to your business or is evaluating new business systems or attending a relevant business conference

With context, it is often fairly easy to identify when, where and what the prospect is doing. The more important question is why. If your telemarketing team is armed with such contextual information, they can dig for the why to shape a contextually relevant message that can move a prospect into a buying cycle.

Cause and Effect of Marketing Activities

Campaign Flow to Money

By Dale Wolf

What brings a prospect into a buying cycle? The choices a prospect makes to satisfy aspirations or challenges. To understand the effect of a campaign, we need first to understand the cause. Usually, there is a combination of offline and online interactions across various touchpoints, many of which go unrecognized or recorded. Downloading an eBook is best understood by observing the prospect’s next action. The next action might be to contact the company or to answer the phone when the supplier calls. Or the next touch might be to continue a process of research about the supplier by visiting more deeply into the supplier’s website and that of similar suppliers. It is a series of actions and reactions.

In all cases, when a prospect takes an action, there are three and only three options the prospect now has before her:

  1. Yes, I will engage.
  2. No, I will not engage.
  3. Maybe, I will consider this supplier after I am clearer as to what I really want to do about resolving my aspirations or challenges. To the supplier, this might appear to be a “no” when actually the prospect goes dormant.

The illustration below attempts to show this interdependence of the next touch. The faces are prospects. The stars are marketing initiatives. The lines are actions taken or not taken.







A web visit from someone who accepted a campaign offer is a high value touch, as is the opening of an email and a click through to the next step. Or a direct mail campaign might cause the prospect to click to a Personalized URL (PURL). A tweet about an upcoming event might result in clicking a link to the web page describing the event in more detail and a click from this page to a registration page could be the cause of a closed sale. Campaigns work in concert with one another to move prospects along. But the decision and time frame are entirely in the control of the prospect.

Those prospects that receive a campaign and do not respond should be watched to see if they remain disengaged over consecutive campaigns during a one-year period. At some point, they should be treated as having “unsubscribed” themselves from your company. You might try a ‘win-back’ campaign as a final action before removing them from your active list.

What is your ratio of well-targeted contacts versus disengaged contacts? The cost of replacing these inactive people is an often ignored cost of your marketing campaigns.

By understanding the cause and effect of prospect actions, we can attribute transitional power to those that moved a prospect to a closed sale. We can also capture the first contact and the last contact. The first contact is like scoring a baseball player to first base and the last contact to a run batted in. All the transitions (men on base) contributed to the win.

When it comes to attributing contribution to a contact’s High Impact Score, the First Point of Contact and the Last Point of Contact each get equal weight and those intervening points would be averaged out equally. On the green line in the above illustration, the First and Most Recent each get, for example, 20 points and the three touches along the way get a total of 20 divided by three, or 6.6 points each.

All five marketing initiatives in this illustration had a cost to produce and deliver the program. The cost of so called free email compared to a direct marketing dimensional mailing, of course, is not really free. All marketing initiatives have internal and external costs to produce the closed sale.


Super-Secret Cincom Super Bowl Ad Leaked Here First


This Sunday, more than 111 million people will tune in to the big game – The Super Bowl –  to watch the 2011 football season come to an end. Many of them will be watching JUST for the commercials. However, over on YouTube, some of the ads have been leaked accidentally on purpose.


While some companies are coughing up close to $4 million for 30 seconds of air time, international software provider Cincom Systems decided that the $7-8 million it would take to air its ad would be better spent invested in its products and services to help companies improve their bottom line. (Although we did spend $7.00 on this advertisement for a soft drinks and a large peanut butter, anchovies, jalapeño jelly fried veggie burger.)


Cincom’s advertisement is a reminder to everyone that it’s never too early to train, strengthen and strategize to position your company to win your big game – and get that next big sale.


Since every other company is releasing their advertisements this week to try to get ahead of the pack and garner as much buzz as possible, Cincom wanted to get in on the act. So far, this is the first software company advertisement we’ve seen.


Special thanks to Eric Nies, Marilyn Cox, Robyn Robinette-Johnson, Carey Hoffman, Carla Johnson, Ed Mack, Tom Rolf, Devin Meister and Liz Harter (AKA the Cincom Video Team of the Week).

Are you one of the 8% that produces sustainable growth?

Content marketing is about one thing: providing a great customer experience that helps grow your business. If the content is about anything else, it is fine art, like a diary or a painting that satisfies the artist but has no retail value.

B2B content producers are sales people who sell with concepts, words, illustrations; crafted together by a graphic designer. It is preparing the way for the salesperson to make his onsite visit with a prepared prospective buyer.

But the sad thing about it all is that the team of content producers and professional sales people fail 92% of the time to consistently create top and bottom line growth. That was the result of a study published by the Conference Executive Board in 2010. They reviewed 1,780 companies and only 143 had achieved sustained profitable growth from 1995 to 2008. 143 of 1,780 companies had the magic mixture.

Just 8%. Really?

What we need is a new way to turn content into magic, that like the Indian scout goes ahead to prepare the way for the sales team. We need to depart from traditional marketing.

Clearly it is not working.

We need to innovate around sales and marketing practices that impact decision making upstream from the sales cycle. We need to provide content and early stage selling that helps customers make good decisions about how to reach their aspirations and to overcome their challenges—even if you lose the sale, your reputation will grow. You are the people who help buyers make good decisions instead of selling them snake oil.

Use the total experience from distributing useful, well crafted content to making the onsite visit all helpful to the buyer. Then we will begin to reshape customer understanding of their own needs. Targeted, provocative communications that challenge customer assumptions about their own business growth. Create impact rather than just activity.

What happens in the buyer’s world?

Once we challenge a buyer’s old assumptions, the buyer will convene a group to hear about the new reality. You can be sure that at least one person will see a way of hanging on to the old way or that will come up with a different way of resolving the situation that we recommended. Challenges will surface. Those at risk will fight. The decision drags on.

Those of us on the outside seldom get the view of what is happening on the inside, but we know the likely scenario. Again content marketers need to help the sales team keep the buyer focused on the new reality and on the impact of success or failure.

Content marketing is anticipatory and longitudinal.

Times past are gone when the marketing department could prepare an campaign, a brochure and a few data sheets. Now traditional marketers need to produce a huge array of content to meet what are really foreseeable situations. We have to anticipate these expected challenges.

We have to be ready for a long siege that keeps the buyer engaged throughout a buying cycle that is months long and treacherous with politics.

We have to be out in the marketplace with social content so we remain an important voice in the entire conversation. It is not good enough to have a blog that touches the social conversation. We have to comment on other relevant content posted on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook … on the blogs our buyers publish … on the articles in the online trade media. We have to be everywhere or someone who outsmarts us will slip through and steal the sale we worked so hard to win.

Top 20 Women Content Producers: Content Marketing Institute

Joe Chernov, VP of Content Marketing for Eloqua, a revenue performance management company, expresses his dismay with the ‘boy’s club’ culture of content marketing, namely, excluding women thought leaders and influencers, noting that it is detrimental to the content marketing industry.

So Content Marketing Institute assembled their list of the top 20 women generating great content to show some might female writers. I might add that Joe  and CMI have done an excellent job at putting the spotlight on women leading the way as serious influencers and contributors to the content marketing institute. Content handled this way is an important factor in improving customer experience.

As a sample, here are 5 of their top 20 (in alpha order):

Ardath Albee (@ardath421): Ardath is the E.F. Hutton of B2B marketing: When she talks, people listen. Her blog and Twitter stream are among the most influential in her category.


Leslie Bradshaw (@LeslieBradshaw): Leslie runs data visualization firm JESS3, which has produced some of the most shared content of the entire social web. Ever. Her “More Seats” column for the Forbes Blog highlights women in tech.

Deirdre Breakenridge (@dbreakenridge): Deirdre is proof that PR and content marketing are kindred spirits. She’s omnipresent across her blog, Twitter, webinars, social Q&A sites, and more.


Jennifer Cisney (@kodakCB): Jennifer runs Kodak’s blog and social media presence. She’s also a prominent speaker at industry events. Anyone who follows Kodak marketing knows it takes smarts and swagger to succeed. She’s got both.


April Dunford (@aprildunford): April’s probably the least “classic” content marketer on this list, but her RocketWatcher blog might just be the smartest, most interesting marketing-related content on the blogosphere.

Experience will be positive after you establish trust and credibility

As marketing content developers we should keep in mind how our content impacts trust and credibility with prospects, clients, employees and suppliers. Words are important. Buyers are absorbing content from all sorts of places. They evaluate emotionally and rationally if our promises sound true or too good to be true. When we accomplish trust and credibility, our marketing content will drive business.

  • TRUST means that your marketing content conveys that you will work to make the buyer successful.
  • CREDIBILITY comes when your actions follow through with what you promised.

Done well, this will lead to a positive customer experience—one where customers will tell others that they love being associated with your company. Given the openness of social networks, such advocates for your company will spread the word and your reputation as a valuable resource instead of just another vendor.

Keep in mind, however, that B2B buyers can spot a fake from a mile off. They have seen and heard it all a thousand times. They stand alert. False promises can bankrupt your brand. Fake sincerity and you will die by your words. Instead, a sincere commitment based on a deep understanding of your buyers’ aspirations and concerns will enhance your reputation as a trusted adviser.

Parity is broken.

Differentiation is established.

Experience is positive.

Avoid jargon and bells and whistles. Such language always sounds fake and unreliable and communicate you are more interested in selling your solution than in helping the buyer to be successful. Use simple, direct words that clearly communicate what you do and how you create economic value. Use customer testimonials and industry analyst reports to validate your promises. Never slam your competitors. Do what you promise and don’t over-promise. Provide links to your social network profiles. Comment on other blogs. Make it personally relevant wherever you can.

Keep all your marketing content contextually relevant to your buyer personas. The key is to focus on the needs and wants of the customer. Contextual content marketing drives business because it builds credibility and trust. Credibility occurs when buyers understand you have the knowhow and credentials to support your brand promise.  Trust happens when buyers believe you. They will buy from you when they are convinced that you can really help them. That’s when your content will drive more business.

If you are serious about content, check out CMI

Content marketing, according to Content Marketing Institute, is the practice of creating relevant and compelling content in a consistent fashion to a targeted buyer, focusing on all stages of the buying process, from brand awareness through to brand evangelism.


In 2007, Joe Pulizzi launched a content marketing service called Junta42. Recently this was renamed Content Marketing Institute. CMI runs Content World, a huge educational event with the next one occurring in Columbus, OH, on September 4-6, 2012. They also publish a magazine: Chief Content Officer.

CMI’s philosophy is that content marketing must include strategic planning, content creation, distribution, and metrics for multiple stages of the buying cycle to multiple customer personas. In my view, that means a complete content marketing strategy would incorporate inbound marketing principles, but it would also take a more holistic approach to meeting a business’s overall marketing goals.

Content is today’s path to customer experience and marketing success.

Think like a Publisher

Developing and implementing a
marketing content strategy is today
the single most critical task
that B2B marketers must master.

Content has always been “king of the hill”.

The power of unique, quality content has been self-evident as a way of capturing audiences with continuity programming. One of the earliest examples of content marketing came in 1895 when John Deere published The Furrow magazine—a magazine still being published today.

Procter & Gamble created its own radio soap opera production subsidiary in 1940, and produced the first network television soap opera in 1950. P&G Productions created 20 soap operas on radio and television, becoming a pioneer in producing award-winning daytime serials like As The World Turns and Guiding Light, which ended in September 2009 after 72 years.  P&G brand marketers were unbeatable because they understood the need to produce their own content to drive business.

So what is different about content marketing today?

The production of content exploded as the Internet became a viable way to reach audiences. For too long, however, the content on websites was not much more than online versions of printed brochures. Customers ditched the approach by ignoring such content. Company-centric content gradually gave way to customer-relevant content—what we call contextual content. Such content has to be well-written and designed, but most important; it has to be relevant to specific buyer segments. It has to be about customer needs rather than product features and benefits.

You simply cannot afford to market the old way—with branded messages that are watered down into creative taglines that hardly any potential customer could give a hoot about you.

Your customers are in control.

We live in a world where buyers want to make up their own mind about what they need. When buyers have problems that need solutions, they will go on the Internet and read about their problem until they are satisfied that they know how solve their situation. They do this without ever talking to one of your salespeople. If you are not in the online dialogue while they are learning, you will not be in the final list of companies they choose to explore in face-to-face meetings. This is true whether they plan to buy a new fire engine or CRM software or business continuity insurance.

Content is today’s path to marketing success.

The raw fact is that B2B marketing is now a content publishing business.  Buyers demand content. Search engines demand content. Marketers must demonstrate through content how we understand our buyer’s needs and how we have developed solutions that are a perfect match to the issues they are trying to resolve.

Today, every marketer must learn what academia insisted on for as long as there have been professors teaching at colleges:

Publish or Perish.

What does it mean to think like a publisher?

When I was editor of a trade magazine for retail merchandisers, we met every day to plan the next issue of the magazine. We visited stores. We talked with retailers. We met with the people advertising in the magazine. We knew the industry and where to find stories that would help these retailers drive more business with better merchandising solutions. We had an editorial calendar so advertisers could plan their ad schedules around the content we would be publishing. The passion everyday was to publish the best content serving our industry.

In the 1980’s, the marketing agency I founded with two partners, produced recipe books for P&G that were unique to each household – coupons personalized to the households’ previous redemption patterns. For Butler Manufacturing, a provider of steel buildings and metal roof systems, we produced a quarterly magazine, Building Profit,  that ran for nearly 10 years.

Today, at Cincom Systems, CEO Tom Nies is constantly producing content to teach and inspire employees to better serve our clients. Marketing publishes eBooks and an animated video that help Chief Sales Officers find new ways to improve how they sell complex products as a major element of the Cincom Acquire software brand. We also publish an award winning bi-weekly online magazine called Expert Access—with over 125,000 subscribers and a weekly one-hour radio program on a local station where we interview business leaders to provide stories that motivate or inform listeners on how to do their jobs better.

What it means for marketers to become publishers is to have the same commitment for producing outstanding content that a magazine publisher has for developing articles that are useful to subscribers. Your buyers are looking for content that is relevant to the issues they face every day at work. You can build a powerful relationship by helping them with their issues and helping them to more smartly buy solutions to their problems or their aspirations.

Predicting 2012: The Year Quality of Customer Experience Becomes King

The next twelve months will see a greater focus than ever before on the quality of customer experience permeating strategies, systems, applications and initiatives.

An efficiency and transaction mindset is driving many industries including airlines into a churn-based business model that is tough to escape from.

In 2012 many businesses will need to step up their efforts to make better use of internal systems that are not integrated to CRM, analytics and customer service systems so they can deliver higher quality customer experiences immediately.  Integrating these systems together and making the quality of data and intelligence a priority will increase the quality of customer experience delivered.

 With these thoughts in mind, here are several customer experience predictions for 2012:


  •  By combining quality monitoring, analytics and social media, many companies get a true assessment of the customer experience they are delivering for the first time.  2012 is going to be about measuring and improving the quality of customer experience first, increasing the speed and efficiency of interactions second.  Quality monitoring is going to get beyond just measuring activity-based and high-end customer satisfaction metrics.  Behavioral analytics, real-time feedback from social networks , integrated to sentiment analysis will give customer experience and customer service managers instant visibility into how effective their strategies and programs are.  For many, it will be the first true reading of customer satisfaction and quality of customer experience.
  •  Consistency of customer response across all channels gets measured, monetized, and rewarded internally and externally.  One of the quickest ways to increase the quality of customer experience is to make responses identical, synchronized and complete across all channels.  Surprisingly, according to Forrester in a recent study, 90% of companies can’t do this.  Customers however expect this to be like a dial-tone in their interactions with you and your company.  In 2012, there is going to be a much stronger focus on this area, with more measurement, monetization (through upsell and cross-sell) and greater spending on this than ever before.  The bottom line is that delivering a consistent response across all channels is no longer optional, it’s required.  2012 will show how companies who did the hard work of making this happen end the year with higher gross margins, retention rates and customer satisfaction scores.
  • Knowledge management and the use of configuration and constraint engines to streamline its use in Web self-service and agent-based applications goes mobile, accelerating across all channels.  Having real-time access to the knowledgebase of their companies further increases the quality of customer interaction and experience for service reps, driving up quality monitoring scores in the process.  Smartphone and tablet integration via Android and Apple iOS will begin to provide richer data sets and greater analytics application performance, giving customer service much greater ability to respond in real-time regardless of location or time.
  • Using social media and online communities, customers will make it known which channels they are most and least likely to use for service and support – the migration between channels will be more fluid than ever before.  Using analytics, data mining and real-time quality monitoring is going to be essential for customer experience and customer service teams to stay on top of.
  • Customer experience becomes more dependent on ongoing content development, management and personalization than ever before.   No longer will customers be satisfied with only a quarterly or bi-yearly update on what’s going on in the user communities they are members of.  It’s an always-on, real-time world right now and the companies who deliver a consistently high quality stream of content will emerge from 2012 with more profitable customers than they began with due to their focus on this area.
  • Big Data, Hadoop and MapReduce will deliver on the promises of greater customer insight and intelligence through advanced data mining and business intelligence.  The insights gained from these initiatives will be a strong catalyst of change in many companies  stalled in their CEM strategies today due to lack of legacy data integration and analytics.   This is one area where quality will become king in 2012, as companies quit being satisfied with simple data integration and start pushing for higher quality of data analysis and predictive modeling.  Integrating Big Data with sentiment analysis and customer satisfaction data will yield insights many customer service, marketing and executive management teams are lacking today.




Marketing to Revenue

For over 4 decades (my how time flies), I have helped many global companies and small companies grow their businesses. One of my beliefs is that I have always worked to keep marketing and sales aligned. Marketing should enable sales. Marketing should be tightly linked to generating revenue. Otherwise, why do it at all?

Marketing and selling involve a complex set of personal communications intended to result in a transaction. There are no cookie cutter solutions. This is hard work, especially in a struggling economy.

Your  brand is your story for how you create value for customer (not for yourself; no features and functions). Wherever this can demonstrate real economic value for the customer, success will go up.

Two Teams Climbing the Same Hill — Together

Marketing and sales must collaborate on driving revenue. Stay focused on the revenue objective. Activities that do not work toward revenue generation are wasteful. This takes incredible concentration to do the right things and just the right things.

Your competitive advantage is how you uniquely help customers. You illustrate this by showing how you did this for other customers and intrigue the rest of customers to want the same gains.

Never Fill Your Marketing Box with Features and Functions; Better to Leave it Empty

This needs to drive revenue, without bogging down in trivia. Sell the hope and vision. Sell the new reality with imagination instead of what your product does. The part where you show what your product does and how it does it comes later in the buying process. Give it away too early and the prospect no longer needs a dialogue with you. They then move on to competitors and push everyone into a parity where they can negotiate with you on price rather than on the economic value you best can provide.

Learn from Mistakes.

We recently did a mailer with 3 waffer seals (one on each side of the mailer) … if I got this in the mail it would go in the garbage … who is going to take the time to slit open 3 wafer seals? It was a great mailer, totally ruined in the production process. Stay on top of the details. I blinked and did not catch this 3-seal thing and paid the price.

Minimize Fishing;Market to Known Prospects

Build a prospect database instead of running lead generation campaigns. Market and sell to this database. If it is built correctly, it will include all the companies in your selected markets and all the individuals at these companies who can influence the sale or make the buying decision. This eliminates waste. You spend your efforts on communicating how you provide exceptional value to the same decision makers and influencers non-stop. Repetition with creativity. Never bore them to death.

Marketing to this database is intended to gradually change attitudes about how they are now doing business and how they can more successfully do business with your product and/or service. Repeat your core message by using contextually-relevant creative ways to bring your brand story alive. Use every legal medium you can afford. But always, always tell a value story — one where you helped a client accomplish great things that other prospects will envy. This takes content to tell the story. Lots of content. Today, marketing is largely about producing relevant, powerful content in print, online, video, audio, games. You can probably skip the sandwich boards and Burma Shave signs, but use anything else.

Content is Currency; Be Strategic with What You Give Away

Control the amount of information you provide to prospects at each stage of their buying process; information is your leverage. Once you give it away, they no longer need you. They buyer will want data sheets or demonstrations or pricing, but do not give this type of information until you have the prospect wanting what you are selling. Keep painting the new reality with aspirational stories and with stories of how your past clients overcame barriers to their problems. Keep pulling them forward with customer success stories until they are ready to let you come into their company and work with you on building a success model based on their data.

Sales people need to do the work, make the calls and convert at each stage of the process so they can hand off to the next stage. Each stage has a purpose. Need to reveal intent to spend money with you. Marketing must provide the content that is appropriate to move the prospect forward to the next step in the selling process. As long as you can see movement toward this decision, you are winning. If forward movement does not occur with each conversation, you are losing. When forward movement stops, enter the people at the stalled company into a nurture campaign that maintains awareness and continues to paint the new reality until they are ready to sell.

Understand the Experience. Market the Experience.

Promoting the experience is a complex art, both for marketing and for sales. Make it real for others who have not yet gone through it. Paint the experience of a new reality. How can they believe your new technology can help them close sales faster and more profitably? Everyone says this, but if you have the facts to back up your claim, you can get prospects salivating to get the same results. Never rush to demo. Never rush to features and functions. First get prospects wanting the same kinds of gains that you provided to other customers.

As the number of highly active prospects in the sales funnel becomes smaller, then the one-to-one communications become more intense and more focused on how you can help that one company succeed. To communicate this, you need to do your homework and make sure you are solving the right problem and that this problem is important to their success.




Content Marketing at “Orchids at Palm Court”

Hilton Hotels knows how to use content to put their brand on the table.

If you visit Cincinnati, do not miss out on this fabulous customer experience — dinner prepared by American Chef of the Year, Todd Kelly.

Dinner at this magnificent restaurant in the Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel is always exquisite. The dining ambiance is distinctive at this French Art Deco masterpiece and a National Historic Landmark that challenges the splendor of King Solomon’s Temple. The hotel was built in 1931 by Colonel William A. Starrett, whose previous projects included the Lincoln Memorial and the Empire State Building.

And that is before you even get to taste the work of Chef Todd Kelly, recently names the Chef of the Year by the American Culinary Institute. Dining at Chef Kelly’s restaurants throughout the hotel, but most specially in Orchids, is an experience that anyone will remember for a long time.

Content Marketing at its Best

Marketing the experience at Orchids at Palm Court is being done with the same technique many marketers use today: content marketing. Produce content that communicates your value proposition. Content that helps prospective customers to understand their problems or aspirations and demonstrates that you have the solutions.

In this case, the content  is just as elegant as Beef Shabu-Shabu with Vermicelli, Galette and Dried Mushroom Broth. A 176-page Chef’s Cookbook that reveals how Chef Kelly prepares 65 of his most popular menu items. The cookbook subtly reinforces the Hilton brand, with it’s logo gracefully placed on every page of the book. The history of the restaurant and how Todd Kelly became such an iconic chef are stories that pull the reader into the book. Photos range from the chef at work  meticulously preparing a plate, to photos of him with his family — reinforcing his expertise but at the same time make him approachable. The book will no doubt be the cornerstone of Hilton’s marketing — an example of where the marketing pays for itself with book sales.

I went to his book signing at Joseph Beth Book Store where he gave a great talk about how his brother (also a chef) got him into the restaurant business. Like most chefs he moved around a bit, family in tow. He told us how competing for the American Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year was a lot like competing for Iron Chef on the Food Network. He talked about the year-long preparation for producing the cookbook, co-authored by Courtney Tsitouris. How they had to down-size recipes to feed a restaurant to feeding a family. These book tours are not selling the new cookbook. They are selling the entire Hilton organization.

He earned the title by competing against three other chefs from around the  country in a one-hour competition making  four dishes  using a secret ingredient.: Red Snapper.  Kelly and his team,  Derek Bush and Tom Groves, both Hilton employees,  made four snapper dishes: Marinated red snapper with orange-miso aioli, lychees, daikon sprouts, sea spears and chili oil; Steamed red snapper with purple artichoke and dungeness crab salad with brown butter nage; Crispy red snapper with porcini mushrooms, foie gras, Delfina potatoes and verjus sauce; and Red snapper “en papillote” with Madras curry vinaigrette, Vidalia onions, tzatziki and tart apple salad. These and many more recipes plus are in the new cookbook.

Chef Kelly is totally centered on his food and the experience his customers have when they enter his restaurant. Customer experience comes first. Then the acolades fall in line. Right here in River City we are blessed with a lot of great restaurants. Orchids at Palm Court, however, sits in a special place: Number 1.

3 Curated Articles on Customer Experience

A few gems from my content curation site on Customer Experience Marketing:

From Inc Magazine:

Author Geoffrey James sees things differently than I do about branding, but sometimes it is useful to see what the “other side” thinks … to challenge our own thinking. I agree with his conclusion that brand is about the customer’s experience with the product. I disagree that this is the only thing that counts. And without brand building awareness and lead generation, there might be no customers to experience your brand. Nevertheless, here’s his comments from prestigious Inc. Magazine:

Bottomline: Your brand is the emotion that a customer feels when thinking about your product.

That’s it. Neither more nor less. And that’s why “branding” is so impotent.

While it is true that branding can associate an emotion with a product, especially when pointed at highly impressionable buyers (e.g. young men who watch beer ads), in the vast realm of B2B sales and even in most consumer markets, there is one, and only one, thing that creates customer emotion: the customer’s experience with your product.

From Impact Blog!

If you want to provide great customer service, the first thing that you should know is that it’s no longer good enough to answer questions in conventional channels (email and phone, or in person) or at conventional times (during work hours, perhaps on weekends.) Twitter in particular is a channel for customer response that’s changed the expectations of customer service most dramatically, and forever. Your customers talk to you on Twitter because they feel it’s an immediate connection to the people in your company who can solve their problem.

Fine. What does that mean? First of all, it means that the expectations for the timeliness and breadth of your customer service have become headline driven. Can you answer the customer, respond in the appropriate tone, and/or redirect the issue with valuable content in under 140 characters? That’s what your customer expects

From CRM Advocate:

What’s Our Super Glue of Customer Experience?

Here is some of the super glue of customer experience …

1. Being remembered beyond the name. When customers’ preferences are recalled in real time — not just noted in a database that the customers completed themselves — there is a sense of belonging.

2. Easy to do business with. The definition of easy varies by customer base including generations, occupational focus, educational background. Everything online may seem easy to one generation and maddening to another. Nonetheless, easy will always be at the top of the list.