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Why fine-tuning your proposition is the key to being customer-centric

Categories: Best Practice


Today, I hardly ever get a client brief without some reference to ‘customer-centricity’ somewhere within it. There’s nothing wrong with that – but what does ‘customer-centric marketing’ really mean in B2B?

A lot of people will tell you that it involves a detailed content marketing strategy and/or a commitment to marketing automation and more sophisticated customer data profiling. At the heart of that: the creation of detailed customer personas that help us better visualise our audience.

These are all valuable tools, but in the general hubbub of ‘modern marketing’ discussion, the product and the concept of the proposition is in danger of being neglected.

I want to make the case here that the proposition is still the central challenge facing B2B marketers. I’d even add that if you’re doing your proposition development right, you’re probably well on your way to nailing the challenge of customer-centricity too. Because a good proposition understands a customer’s challenges and responds to them. A good proposition is a customer-centric one.


Don’t take my word for it – here’s what the audience thinks!


As things stand, B2B audiences aren’t very satisfied with the quality of the marketing and sales approaches they receive. Here’s a quote from a fairly recent CEB and Google study:

“86% of B2B buyers saw ‘no real difference between suppliers’.”

And here are the thoughts of some B2B tech decision-makers from a recent study we conducted with Kindle Research.

“It’s all believable, but nothing grabs me. It’s just general marketing blurb.”

“For me to take 30 minutes out of my day I need to see some value in it, and quite often I’m unconvinced.”

So why’s it so hard to get this right?


Is this the toughest kind of marketing there is?


Many B2B marketers have to deal with complex, highly specialised solutions and services.

There are often long and complicated stories to digest about how and why these offerings were developed. Getting the most interesting details out of these – and consensus among the solutions architects, consultants and sales teams – takes time and effort.

You then need to map these against some equally complex customer worlds – multi-faceted business challenges, subtle variations by industry, convoluted decision-making processes and groups, sometimes long sales cycles. According to the CEB, 80% of sales leaders say the number of people in a decision-making unit continues to rise. And it’s already at 5.4.

It’s hard graft, but well worth it. In the process you start to uncover some nuggets of gold – the little things that will give you some genuine differentiation, leading to more exciting creative, clever messaging and marketing that will stop people in their tracks.

However, the truth is that this hard graft doesn’t always happen and the foundations for everything else B2B marketers do is weakened by that.


Understanding the customer and understanding the product is the same thing


My message here is that by doing the hard work to understand your offering and the story behind it – its ‘why’ – you will end up with a far better informed view of your customer’s world and where you fit in it.

You can read the full detail of the research we carried out with Kindle here – it’s loaded with quotable reactions from the B2B tech audience, which I think really help us focus when we’re planning a campaign and discussing audience insight.

You can also find out more about how to structure your approach to this challenge in our proposition playbook. In this document we’ve brought together the approaches that work best from years of B2B campaigning on complex propositions.

So next time you hear someone complaining about being too product-focused, just remind them not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.



Posted by Tom Upfold | October 17, 2016

Festival of Marketing 2016: Customer experience and the rise of cognitive

Categories: Uncategorized


Last week I spent a couple of days at Econsultancy’s Festival of Marketing event in London. Spread over two days, the 12 different ‘stages’ covered subjects from digital transformation to brand to the customer experience (and even one on B2B).

Here are my key takeaways…


The customer experience (CX) will be front of mind for B2B marketers in 2017

The event reinforced my view that CX will be top of the agenda next year. Adobe are claiming we are entering the ‘Experience Wave’ – the third major ‘wave’ of business transformation in the last 10–15 years. First was back-office efficiency, second was CRM and loyalty, and this third is experience and customer journey.

It’s not a new issue, of course – we ran an event on CX Maturity in 2007. But with tech vendors and publishers pushing the agenda, including at the B2B conference in November, it feels like 2017 will be the year when B2B marketers are pressured to do something about it. I can almost imagine the planning sessions going on right now, Post-it notes clustering around ‘Improve our customer journey’ and bosses demanding, "What’s our Customer Experience Strategy?"

In practice, we’re already seeing more programmes with an emphasis on ‘brand expression’ – does our experience make the audience feel the right way about our brand? – and projects to review the customer journey and identify ways it can be improved.


Integration and exploitation of data will be a growing focus

Consensus is well established: marketers have plenty of data but struggle to make use of it.

But to achieve your burgeoning CX ambitions, you need to integrate the various sources of data (eg search, web analytics, social analytics, marketing data, CRM data, third-party data). More importantly, you need to manipulate it in such a way that you get useful insights to help improve customer journeys, creative impact, content performance, channel selection, advertising placement and cadence, messaging, email… the list is a long one.

I think this will mean B2B organisations get more serious about the ‘data layer’, analytics and smarter in the way they apply their martech. It may well come under the banner of digital transformation.


Cognitive is coming to marketing

Cognitive will be the next big martech trend and has some pretty far-reaching implications in and outside of marketing. The most impressive/interesting sessions I saw were IBM Watson for marketing and a panel discussion on how AI is influencing the customer experience.

Cognitive technology is the description for a range of capabilities that allow computers to think and learn like (or more like) humans, from visual recognition to natural language processing and machine learning.

Watson is arguably the leading cognitive tech ‘brand’ (thanks to both an enlightened business strategy and great marketing). It’s making use of massively more data than either we humans or traditional analytics tools can; 80% of data is unstructured. Watson can read 800 million pages of text a second (faster even than Short Cuts?), interpret pictures, understand complex metaphors, idioms and emojis. It can also learn as it goes.

Use cases range from predictive analytics to reduce customer churn, to personalisation of advertising and promotions to improve sales, to segmentation, product and proposition development. It’s already being used in a few experimental B2C cases – North Face’s jacket-choosing assistant may seem a little OTT but gives a good idea of the sort of interactions we’ll be seeing more of.

Still early days, and I think it’ll be a while before we see it in B2B outside of brand activation-type stuff, although Salesforce recently made Einstein, their AI platform, the star of Dreamforce.

Caveats with cognitive are that it relies on a fair bit of data and it needs experts to teach it. But imagine if you could plug it into your CRM data and all the data, say, LinkedIn has about networks, connections and behaviours and give that to Watson. Interesting times ahead.


The next few years will see less new martech and consolidation in the martech space

This is the view of Econsultancy VP of Research, Stefan Tornquist. VC funding for martech is down 50% on last year, itself down 33% from the previous year. Stefan’s view is that this ‘plateau’ will allow B2B organisations to catch up on themselves and get much better at making the most of digital technology. Sounds like a good challenge!


Posted by David van Schaick | October 12, 2016

The Marketing Practice Inc: why TMP is setting up shop in Seattle

Categories: At the Barn

B2B marketing is developing rapidly around the world, with more and more companies demanding integrated, measurable, commercially focused programmes. Particularly in the US, integrated demand generation programmes are becoming increasingly sought after. That was most recently seen in the Business Marketing Association's B2 awards earlier this year, where integrated campaigns featured heavily.

The President of TMP’s international operations, Paul Everett, has been closely involved with setting up the agency’s newest office in Seattle. I caught up with him to get his thoughts on how B2B marketing in the US is evolving.


Why are you opening a US office?


A number of the programmes we are running for clients in the UK and EMEA are being sponsored by their headquarters, which are predominantly in the United States. Equally, our reputation in EMEA has meant that more and more of our clients’ counterparts in the US are asking us to replicate that success over there.


The US is a really interesting new market for us. We’ve seen that our approach is transferable through programmes we’ve already run in the US. But there’s also plenty we can learn from US companies which we will then be able to apply to our programmes in EMEA. So overall there’s a great opportunity for us to cross-pollinate, and we expect our clients to benefit greatly from this.


What do you mean by cross-pollinate?


We’re bringing a lot of EMEA experience to the US, which gives us a different perspective that we can offer clients there. And we know there are a lot of things we can learn from the US market and apply to our EMEA campaigns.


For example, in Europe you’ve got smaller markets, and each of those markets speak a different language, whereas in the US you have a far bigger audience to run tests with. An account list in EMEA might include 100 companies. In the US there might be 1000 accounts for the same criteria.


So in Europe, it’s always been essential to integrate different elements of marketing – we can’t afford to let a single account slip through the net. Whereas American marketers are ahead with their marketing technology and automation, because it’s necessary for such a huge audience.


So what is the advantage of having experience in Europe?


As I was saying, we’ve always promoted an integrated approach to campaigns all the way from proposition development through to sales handover, which is what many American companies lack. In several cases, they have highly specialised teams working in siloes. So they’re more advanced in specific disciplines but have less experience at end-to-end integration.


Our experience in EMEA also gives our clients an advantage when it comes to proposition development. With a crowded market of suppliers and a smaller audience to target, it’s essential to have a campaign proposition that is truly differentiated.


What are you most excited about for the US office?


The scale of the market offers us massive opportunities. Because the audience is bigger, you can put more investment into the planning and preparation of a programme whilst maintaining strong ROI at the end. That means we can drive more digital engagement by investing in the right tools and technology up-front, which continues to be a challenge with UK marketing budgets.


And of course the excitement for employees in the UK can’t be underestimated. There are a lot of opportunities for our existing staff to spend time working in Seattle, which is a big deal. So we’re cross-pollinating employees across two continents as well.


Perhaps you’re stretching the metaphor too far now.


Okay, point taken.


Finally, do you have one piece of key advice for anyone setting up in the US?


There’s a misconception that you have to open an office before you can approach the market. But because of the scale of the country, having an office doesn’t actually give you more than 1–2 hours’ advantage over the UK. There’s still a 3-hour time difference between the coasts – by comparison, the UK is only five hours away from New York. Over the last few years we’ve shown our approach works from the UK before we made the leap to opening our Seattle office – the three B2 Awards we won earlier this year are a testament to that. And now we have the opportunity to work even more closely with those clients and others to continue delivering that service on an even larger scale.



Posted by Dan Squire | October 10, 2016

AdBlockalypse Now: how adblocking can be an opportunity for B2B

Categories: Best Practice

Customer-centricity. That’s what we’re all striving for in B2B marketing, right? To stop thinking about what we need, and make sure that the customer has an easy and consistent experience at every touchpoint. So why don’t we apply the same rigour to digital advertising?


Digital adverts have an appalling reputation. They are often intrusive, poorly targeted, and deliberately interrupt the user experience on any device. And because of this, almost no-one looks forward to seeing adverts.


Click-through rates are already at rock bottom. We are almost 500 times more likely to survive a plane crash than we are to click on a web banner ad, and we ignore adverts and go straight to the content. So advertisers are in a constant battle to interrupt the flow of the user experience, because intrusive adverts are the only ones that get seen.


This is the opposite of a customer-centric approach: doing whatever it takes to get clicks, even if it ruins user experience and alienates customers. But now marketers’ laziness is coming back to bite them, as internet users download adblockers in their droves.


Adblocking is an existential problem for digital advertisers. 200 million people worldwide use adblockers and that number is rising, so this isn’t about to go away. Internet users are saying unequivocally that they are tired of being rudely interrupted by advertisers – and this has a detrimental effect on websites who rely on advertising money to keep the lights on. So websites need a new cost model, and advertisers need a new way to contact cold prospects.


Many of the current solutions on the market seem to be focused on fulfilling the websites’ and advertisers’ needs. They might:

  • Try to circumvent adblockers with new ad formats
  • Encourage users to disable adblockers in order to see content
  • Offer an ad-free subscription model

But none of these solutions are ideal. The trouble is that many advertisers are asking the wrong question. It shouldn’t be, “How do we beat adblockers and get through to our audience?”; it should be, “How do we improve the user experience of advertising so there’s less demand for adblocking?”


B2B marketers are in a strong position to make this case. We’re much more used to targeted, highly relevant messaging to a small audience than B2C marketers, whose markets are much larger and demographically varied. Fortunately, some companies are starting to approach these issues:

  • Facebook and Google now allow users to manage the data with which advertisers can target them
  • Brave, a new internet browser, gives users different tiers of advertising engagement options
  • Adblock Plus is moving to a system that favours ‘acceptable ads’, encouraging advertisers to be stricter on quality control

By putting the power back into the hands of users and forcing advertisers to stop cutting corners, these options attempt to change the perception of advertising. It shouldn’t be a channel for brands to pester prospects, but a two-way dialogue where companies can interact with users in the format, tone and topics they’re interested in. The solution to adblockers isn’t confrontational, it’s collaborative.


Although it might seem like a crisis, the adblocking phenomenon is actually a good thing for marketers – it will force us to find ways to improve, and put into practice the commitment to user experience and customer centricity we talk about so often. 


Posted by Dan Squire | September 20, 2016

Rethinking thought leadership from a Challenger Marketing perspective

Categories: Best Practice

Far too much thought-leadership content is ‘me too’ these days. It doesn’t engage the audience with new ideas, and it often gets lost in competing noise. Rarely does it lead to meaningful engagements. 

So I think we should adopt a Challenger Marketing approach to thought leadership. We should focus on building strong opinions from people who can teach readers something new – and expose errors in their commercial thinking.105346-021_TMP_Thought_leader_blog_image-02.jpg

As marketers, this will change how we go about developing content altogether. Content strategies will be less planned, less controlled, and more responsive to the thoughts of the individual. We’ll be working more in collaboration with them to develop ideas, as and when they occur.

Why this focus on individuals? It’s mainly due to the recent shift in buying patterns, with social selling and digital engagement playing an ever-stronger role. Buyers now place more trust in the opinions of people than companies. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers value word of mouth and recommendations over brand advertising.


Find your business brain

This has led to a lot of so-called ‘thought leadership’ content being pushed out from the social platforms of well-followed people. Trouble is, most of that content ends up being a rehash of corporate messaging. Bland, vanilla and very rarely offering anything new.

True thought leadership, for me, has to come directly from the brain of a business thinker, not a marketer. It has to come from those people who have radical ideas and want to disrupt the status quo. Finding them is not always easy, but they’re the ones who will drive content that stands out from the competing noise.


Disrupt traditional thinking

I think of it as being very similar to ‘Challenger Marketing’ because of the focus on commercial insight. Real thought leaders will inevitably want to teach the audience something new, and show them what they’re currently doing wrong.

They won’t speak in broad generalisations or truisms (they don’t have time, and it doesn’t interest them!). But they do want to turn established truths on their head and look at common business concerns from different angles. This is what keeps them at the head of their profession.

In the world of marketing, for example, Byron Sharp is doing just that with his views on customer loyalty, and I’d also consider someone like Mark Ritson to be a thought leader with his arguments against social media marketing. This is the type of person, and the type on content, that really defines a ‘Challenger’ approach to thought leadership.


Adapt your content strategy

There’s a clear role for marketers in supporting this approach. Rather than rehashing existing thoughts or reflecting on what others are saying, we should focus on finding the big thinkers in an organisation, building relationships with them and helping articulate their ideas through fresh, compelling content.

It’s a great opportunity to shift the focus from corporate marketing to people-focused marketing, which I think will deliver greater results. “Customers buy from people, not companies”, as the saying goes. It just has to be the right people, with insightful viewpoints.


Inevitably, this will have a wider impact on how we operate as marketers. Typical content marketing strategies (carefully mapped out in advance on project plans by marketing teams) won’t work. Instead, we’ll have to be more reactive to our thought leaders and adapt content strategies in line with their thinking. After all, they hold the commercial insight – and that should drive everything.


Posted by Clive McNamara | September 9, 2016

Four ways the Microsoft-Litmus partnership may shake up B2B email marketing

Categories: Best Practice

105346-022_TMP_Microsoft-Litmus-blog-image2.jpgIt was announced this week that Litmus and Microsoft are forming an official partnership to improve the email experience for their Outlook and Mail App users, and this is likely to have a big effect on B2B email marketing.

For years the rendering engine in Outlook has limited the functionality of emails, which has prevented Outlook from displaying things in the way that other email clients can. This means that our ability to use creative and impactful content has been limited by Outlook. The partnership with Litmus, the leading email rendering company, is therefore likely to drastically expand the functionality of the emails we can use in our marketing.

Email marketing is one of the most effective channels for B2B marketers, and the majority of B2B prospects use Outlook as their email client. Therefore, any improvements in Outlook are likely to be very useful for those B2B marketers who can capitalise on them. For example:


Embedded video in emails

Outlook doesn’t currently support videos hosted directly in the email, but that might be about to change. Research shows that emails with videos can improve click-through rate by as much as 300%.


GIF images and animations

GIFs only display the first frame in Outlook, whereas proper animated GIFs have been shown to improve email performance. For example, Dell ran an email campaign with GIFs a couple of years ago that saw a 42% increase in click-through rate, and a 103% increase in conversion rate.


Interactive elements (kinetic email)

Emails could be much more engaging if we could include interactive elements. Depending on a where a user clicked, the email would move and adapt in response. On a basic level this would allow features like image carousels or live Twitter feeds, but there is massive scope for creative use of this function.


Data capture forms within emails

This is a little more ambitious, but potentially Microsoft could even allow us to use input forms within Outlook, so that users wouldn’t need to be redirected to a landing page.


Any of these new features would significantly broaden the horizons for B2B marketers. Email has always been a powerful channel, and if the Microsoft-Litmus partnership helps to increase its versatility, email is likely to be even more central to the marketing mix in future.

Obviously all these benefits depend on how Microsoft evolves the Outlook and Mail App platforms, and it will be up to B2B marketers to experiment, assess and decide which tools are most appropriate for their audience. But the move hopefully shows that Microsoft is committed to improving the user experience in Outlook, and we will be eagerly watching to find out what’s in store.


Posted by Nick Rowan | August 18, 2016

In-house vs outsourced: what B2B marketing agencies need to do better

Categories: Best Practice


What’s the biggest threat to B2B marketing agencies’ continued success?

I’ve seen more and more articles recently on B2B news sites and blogs about companies intending to bring more of their marketing resource in-house. For example, a 2015 survey of client-side marketers found that by 2020:

  • 54% of marketers were expecting to reduce the number of agencies they work with
  • 73% of marketers expect to go directly to media owners instead of using media agencies
  • 60% expect to bring content development in-house or to alternative agencies

The reasons given for these decisions included better communication, closer proximity between delivery teams, and a marketing team who are 100% focused on the company they’re working for. Whether these are real benefits or just ‘grass is greener on the other side’-type logic is a matter for debate. But the proliferation of blogs and news articles on the topic shows that it has clearly struck a nerve with marketing agencies. Now that clients often have the expertise in-house – or believe they do – what’s the need for an agency anymore?

The recurring counterargument is this: you can’t get the breadth of perspective in-house that an external agency provides.

But if client-side marketing directors are shying away, it’s because that breadth of perspective is no longer enough to justify the investment in hiring an agency. To show the value of investing in agencies, they need to make themselves not just an outside perspective, but indispensable to business. That means:


They need to be a lot more client-centric than most are now

This is very easy to say, but much harder to execute. It’s very comfortable for agencies to repeat a formula they know has delivered success for them in the past. But every client is different, and a pre-packaged solution will never be a perfect fit. Client challenges take longer to understand and plan for, especially compared to the easy option of repurposing a campaign the agency is already familiar with.

To deliver disruptive, challenging marketing on a massive scale, you need to have a deep, detailed knowledge of your proposition and your industry – and your agency should too. It’s that commitment to research and planning that sets apart an agency that is committed to putting the client’s challenges, not their own, first.


They need to be aligned to commercial and business priorities

Data management, proposition development, sales integration, the reputation of marketing within the wider business – these are the kind of issues that can make or break a marketing department. And they are big, tough challenges to crack.

Laying solid foundations might not be quick, glamorous above-the-line work, but it reaps dividends in the end because it allows you to start your programmes on the right tracks, and to effectively measure the results of your campaigns. If the success of a marketing programme can’t be proven to someone in Sales, Procurement, or to the CEO, then it isn’t really doing anything to solve the client’s commercial challenges.


So there you go. Being client-centric and commercially focused: that’s what allows an agency to create effective marketing programmes that deliver the best results for the client. And no-one should settle for anything less.


Posted by Dan Squire | August 3, 2016

Social selling shouldn’t belong to the sales team. Here’s why

Categories: Best Practice


Google “social selling training for sales” and you get 136 million results. That’s a lot of people offering to turn your sales reps into social sellers. They’ll promise that LinkedIn updates can be written in between calls. New prospects can be found during “downtime”. Those people are mistaken.

Social selling, when it’s done properly, takes time and a specific set of skills. And like any sales or marketing programme you roll out, you’re going to want your efforts to be scalable.

The core activities of a social selling programme include researching prospects, writing compelling posts and messages, planning and managing the campaign and analysing what is and isn’t working.

I’m not saying your sales reps can’t do those things. I’m sure they can.

I am saying it probably isn’t the best use of their time or skills.

Take writing as an example. Some of the most charismatic speakers I know tense up when they come to put pen to paper. For the majority of us, writing just doesn’t feel like a natural continuation of speaking. It’s outside of our comfort zone. That’s likely to be true for your sales team too.

With a significant amount of training, you might be able to change that. Or, if you’re lucky, you might have some sales reps who are already keen writers. However, anomalies aside, you’ve got a full-time job on your hands.

The same logic applies to your writers – imagine asking your best copywriters to meet a prospect and close the deal. It’s not what gets them out of bed in the morning. It’s not why they decided to work for you.

Another way of looking at it is to compare social selling to email campaigns.

You wouldn’t make sales responsible for planning, executing and reporting on a series of email sends. However, sending emails is part of their daily routine and you’d certainly need their input on any emails you were sending out in their name.

Social selling should be no different.

Sales reps who are active on social are a brilliant asset. And the vast majority of them are; The Sales Management Association found that 96% of sales professionals use LinkedIn every week. Making new connections, sending InMails, posting updates and commenting on blog posts – those things all help to raise their profile and can often be the difference between a social selling programme succeeding or not.

But that’s not the same as making the programme their responsibility. Any centrally driven, coordinated social selling efforts belong to marketing. I’ve seen this work time and time again; in a recent demand generation project we saw a 20% increase in leads after marketing introduced a social selling programme.

InMails are a great example of this approach in action. The premise is very similar to emails, but the response rate tends to be better. Marketing can create a messaging matrix to run an InMail campaign that strikes a balance between personalisation and scalability. The matrix groups prospects by specific challenges they are facing, their market position, their industry, or their function – whatever makes the most sense for the campaign.

Once marketing have divided the contacts into categories they can write InMail templates for each group, rather than creating them on a one-by-one basis. Insights can be gathered from annual reports, LinkedIn profiles or online articles. This information needs to inform the templates.

Marketing will need the sales team’s input into the brief, approval on the templates and feedback on the response. Our Inside Sales team often make tweaks to these templates before they send them, adding a line of text that’s personalised to the individual they’re contacting.

Social listening is another example of how a marketing-led approach to social selling can pay off. Researchers can plough through the information on social channels to pick out bite-sized pieces of information about prospects and what they’re most interested in. They can then hand this over to the Sales team to inform the next phone call with that person.

Follow this approach and you don’t need to hire more sales reps to sell socially. You don’t need to retrain the ones you already have. You just need to let the people you already employ do what they do best.

For practical suggestions on how to get marketing and sales working together on a social selling programme, take a look through our social selling playbook.


Posted by Monika Lazarowicz | July 29, 2016

The role of Inbound in B2B marketing: highlights from our Sales & Marketing Forum

Categories: Best Practice

This month’s S&M Forum welcomed three key speakers on the topic of inbound marketing: our very own David van Schaick (The Marketing Practice’s CDO), Graham Wylie (App Nexus) and Jon Moger (Aruba). Here, our Head of Inbound shares nine nuggets of insight gained from the evening.


1. What’s in a journey? And what is the journey?
Whenever we hear the words ‘customer journey’, we also hear a stat. But here’s one from Graham that actually resonated: 19% of B2B decisions are based around brand, 19% around product; 53% are on purchase experience. To bring it to life, Graham visited a Ford garage after being inspired by their ‘Unlearn’ campaign. Whilst he was more window-shopping than intending to buy, he enquired about a specific Ford model featured in the ad. Their response? “Oh no, you can’t test drive that one – it has an eight-month waiting list”. Customer lost.

2. “All that glitters is not gold” – expunge yourself of the magpie behaviour
The discussion centred around marketing technology and the infamous phrase “We thought we needed it”. The conclusion? Shiny new pieces of tech often either sit unused or are used without processes being aligned to deliver results. Before buying, make sure that you consider what you’re trying to achieve first.

3. Getting inbound “in” to your organisation doesn’t have to take years
Jon shared that Aruba are 85% of the way to bringing inbound into their marketing mix after just half a year. It’s a great achievement, and one that he achieved by adopting a ‘lowest common denominator’ approach across Aruba's regional markets, before enabling each market to build from this solid base.

4. Return of the Ps
The Ps, in all their different guises, were referenced several times during the course of the evening. We heard about the 7 Ps [price, promotion, physical evidence, people, product, process, place], the 3 Ps [people, process, physical evidence] and even an adaptation with a 2 P and 1 T model [people, process, technology]. Which featured the most? People. “Attitude over skills” was the conclusion when it comes to selecting a team that can deliver results from inbound marketing.

5. Peering above the parapet
Standing out from the crowd is increasingly difficult in a sea of information overload. So how do you create that differentiation? Through marrying deep audience insight with market insight, and not being constrained by channel norms. This also provides a great opportunity to maximise your inbound marketing.

6. Inbound driving pipeline velocity
We shared some recent research that showed that inbound not only increased the velocity of leads coming in, but also closed leads considerably faster. This helps to both deliver incremental volume in its own right and get value into businesses at a faster rate.

7. The power to challenge
Jon talked about the number of times he has heard “corporate says this is what we need to market”. His response? “OK, that’s great, let’s see the business case and then we’ll review it”. If you don’t have clear rationale around why it’s this proposition vs another, then it may well be doomed to fail.

8. Enable teams for longer-term success
Jon referenced upskilling the sales team in his organisation and the considerable benefits it will have in the longer term. Whether this be training, or thinking differently about the proposition, the gains will be felt for years to come.

9. Be prepared to fail and fail fast
There is only so much you can plan for. When trying something new, always remember: You can seek forgiveness later. As long as you have plans in place to learn, optimise and adapt, not getting it right first time should not be seen as a disaster.

But, if I had to narrow it down to one key takeaway? Make sure your approach is fully integrated. It’s not about inbound or outbound working in isolation – it’s how the two can work together.

Interested in seeing what fully integrated demand generation looks like? Have a look at our platform model.


Posted by Rachael Clark | July 4, 2016

3 reasons the Microsoft-LinkedIn buyout should be on your radar

Categories: Uncategorized


You’ve probably heard the news by now – Microsoft are buying Linkedin. There have been countless opinion pieces on what the acquisition means for those two businesses. But what could the repercussions be for B2B marketing? We at The Marketing Practice are particularly interested in what it could mean for three core areas – inbound, social and data – and decided to ask the experts for their opinions:


“The opportunity exists to provide predictive business solutions based on behaviour and content consumption”
– Rachael Clark, Head of Inbound


“More and more businesses use Microsoft’s cloud propositions each day, providing Microsoft with increasing volumes of insight that they can leverage. They will be building a wealth of valuable data into what businesses consume and how they behave. Marry this with LinkedIn’s insight into decision makers’ behaviour, and this could provide Microsoft with the opportunity to predict and recommend business solutions that are bespoke and delivered at the optimum juncture.


If B2B marketers are also provided access to this insight, they too can get their propositions in front of potential customers at a point when it will be most pertinent to them. This would unlock huge opportunities for B2B inbound marketing if it were to happen. Once a user has been identified and a proposition married to them, Microsoft will then have the option of reaching them via their vast ecosystem: the Office suite, Skype, search, Windows devices, and now of course Linkedin too.


On a more basic level, we are likely to see Microsoft Dynamics go on a feature enhancement drive, integrating information from LinkedIn to deliver ever more personalised communications. I’d like to see Microsoft thinking about how this data could be used to personalise the user’s experience across the full bought, owned and earned ecosystem.


The biggest challenges? How they grow LinkedIn’s user base to deliver these opportunities and ensure users feel comfortable about the use of their data. For me, it has to come back to the value exchange for the user. Get that right, and businesses have much more reason to buy in.”


“For social, and in particular social selling, the obvious opportunity lies in improving the quality of communication” – Monika Lazarowicz, Social Media Manager


“Satya Nadella aims to create a ‘connected professional world’ but in its current state LinkedIn will struggle to deliver this. InMail struggles with spam, the news feed serves up irrelevant inspirational posts, not to mention the pushy yet untargeted recruitment messages. Of course, this is not always the case but I hope that this acquisition will see Microsoft utilise their product suite and engineering capability to improve the overall experience.  For social selling specifically I’d like to see InMail evolve through richer designs, in addition to taking advantage of Microsoft’s network to target individuals (such as Skype chat).


LinkedIn provides advertisers with a unique audience, a large percentage of whom are not active on other social media platforms. In order to maintain this unique user base, Microsoft need to ensure that they elevate and evolve what is currently working to provide value to their audience. From our own social listening we know that while marketers are excited about the opportunities this acquisition could bring, many LinkedIn users are worried about how their data will be used across the network.”


“We expect to see richer contact insights aggregated within Dynamics” – Dave Kershaw, Head of Data


“The acquisition of LinkedIn will be a big boost for Microsoft Dynamics, automating the aggregation of insights across the database. For example, we know that contact X is discussing digital transformation and has engaged with person Y on several occasions (this data could also enrich the Microsoft Cortana AI).


LinkedIn have existing integrations with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. With the acquisition we hope to see this integration evolve at pace. One such example would be to refine the LinkedIn Discovery feature by overlaying Microsoft’s behavioural data, providing businesses with users who not only fit the profile but have shown cues that they are actively in market for a given product.


Whilst there are some obvious benefits for Dynamics, it does beg the question of whether they’ll maintain the Salesforce integration (or to what extent). I don’t expect them to remove this integration entirely as it would create substantial discord but I can envisage limited features versus those experienced by Dynamics customers. If this were to be the case, it could increase the footprint of Microsoft Dynamics across businesses in the UK who want to make use of these extra features.”


Whatever happens, we’ll be keeping an eye on the repercussions of this acquisition. What do you think? Are you excited for the possibilities from the deal? Or are you concerned about the use of data? Let us know!


Posted by Rachael Clark | June 22, 2016