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Want to see the CEO? See the COO first…

December 13, 2013 Categories: Best Practice

My mum always told me to aim for the very top.

But she never clinched that lucrative deal with the head of a blue-chip company.

The main reason, apart from the fact she never worked in B2B marketing, is that finding the right ‘way in’ to the C-Suite is a very tricky business. Especially when the real source of power is often somewhere entirely different than the ‘usual suspects’ of CEO, CFO and CIO.

If you’re looking to address the strategic, transformational goals of a blue-chip organisation, there may be someone else you should be talking to – and there’s every chance your competition aren’t doing it properly yet either…

Set your sights on the COO.

COOOften overlooked as a key to opening the C-suite door, the Chief Operating Officer is usually the leading strategist on the Executive Board – the right-hand man (or woman) of the CEO and in charge of bringing the corporate vision to life.

Their day-to-day role is focused on a wide-range of challenges – Deloitte paints the picture of a jack-of-all-trades and a master-of-all-trades too. From reducing operational costs and delivery times, to growing revenues department by department.

If enhanced business models and processes are part of your business vernacular, the COO should the first person you talk to. If your strong suit is carefully considered business transformation, the COO will always be eager to listen.

The thing is, very few marketers seem to know how important the COO really is or how best to talk to them. So, there’s a real opportunity to make a valuable C-level relationship ahead of the competition.

Which is why, following on from our SlideShare summary of the CTO (another often-overlooked contact), we’ve done the same for the COO:

1 comment | Posted by Paul Everett

Data best practice: As featured in B2B marketing magazine.

December 12, 2013 Categories: Best Practice

Really? I mean, really? Are we still having these discussions, 80 years after they launched the Littlewoods mail order catalogue?

Who among us does not recognise the value of data? (In my day, we called them mailing lists.) And yet, and yet…

Our Head of Data, Matt Hanks has contributed to B2B Marketing magazine’s Best Practice Guide on data. As you would expect, it’s a study in common sense, innovative thinking and professionalism.

I’ve been asked to write a blog about it, to bring your attention to it. But it’s touched a nerve, because I get deeply frustrated and confused about attitudes to data, and direct marketing in general.

I came into the industry just as the sun was setting on the golden age of advertising. The term ‘database marketing’ was being bandied around as the next big thing. Then Stan Rapp, the Rapp in Rapp & Collins, published his book “Maxi Marketing”, which foretold a time when all marketing would be micro-marketing on a mass scale.

Well, here we are, 35 years on from that prophecy and we’re still having to persuade marketers to invest properly in their data.

The trouble is, it’s a bit unglamorous. Why pump money into names and addresses – oh, and spending patterns, demographics, tastes and preferences and any number of other refinements – when you can blow it all on a cool animated video to put on Vimeo? Or getting more Facebook ‘Likes’?

I’m a copywriter. I’m as creative as the next man. (Actually, looking to my left, the next man is a woman and she’s more creative than me.) But I’d happily have most of my budget taken away and spent on getting the data spot on.

I don’t want to write copy that lands in the wrong inbox, or on the wrong desk. Or, even worse, have people responding to my content but not being captured, tracked and – as the new jargon has it – ‘nurtured’.

The buzz I get from my job as a marketer (and copy is a branch of marketing – or, strictly, sales) is knowing that today, something I wrote might persuade someone to talk to one of my clients.

But no matter how persuasive my copy is, it’s not going to work if it’s not relevant, valuable and fresh for the person who receives it. So the data has to be right.

Anyway, the point is, read the B2B Marketing Best Practice Guide. Especially Matt’s bit. You can get it here Data: Best Practice Guide.

Because if you’re not making proper use of the single most powerful asset available to you as a marketer, what ARE you doing?

No comments | Posted by Stuart Constable

O2 Enterprise appoints The Marketing Practice in three year deal to handle B2B account

December 4, 2013 Categories: At the Barn

Coverage of our new contract with O2 Enterprise from The Drum:


No comments | Posted by Claire Lund

A big night at the B2B Awards 2013

November 28, 2013 Categories: At the Barn

Some of us are still nursing bruises from the dodgems and hangovers from the celebrations after we picked up the most awards (3 wins and 2 runners-up) of any agency at the B2B Marketing Awards last week. It was a great reward for our team and winning clients at AXA, Atos, Canon and O2.

No comments | Posted by Monika Lazarowicz

November S&M Forum reflections: what really interests the C-suite

November 27, 2013 Categories: Best Practice

If getting the personal touch right takes a lot of work, creating compelling C-level content is no picnic either.

All three presentations from November’s Sales & Marketing Forum linked back to this challenge in different ways. I’ve picked out a few here:

Content marketing for the C-level.

Content marketing is still a buzzword, despite numerous commentators pointing out that it’s not exactly a new phenomenon (see Dave Stevens’ enjoyably provocative intro to the topic at this year’s B2B marketing conference).

But providing a regular stream of interesting and useful stuff for the c-level audience can open doors, and raise credibility. That said, marketers face stiff competition – and not necessarily from other marketers. For strategic business topics, it’s hard to beat the likes of The Economist, the Harvard Business Review and the Financial Times.

For all the talk of marketers becoming publishers we can’t hope to match the majority of their output – but we should at least understand the kind of quality that’s required at this level.

To see an example of that kind of ambition and scale, just take a look at IBM’s Global C-Suite study. Andrew Grill joined us from IBM to share some of the latest results:


For the last ten years they’ve been running studies that act as a barometer of executive opinions and priorities around the world. This year’s study covers the entire C-suite, through 4183 interviews in 70 countries. The main theme that emerged is The Customer Activated Enterprise, captured in the nice infographic above.

Produce less, produce better

Of course, it doesn’t have to always be quite this grand. A good piece of advice I heard recently from a journalist turned content marketer was to produce less but produce better. And work out ways of making it last.

In doing so, marketers need to sniff out those angles where their organisation can say something different – the thought leadership territory they can realistically own. Focus on a particular job function, or a particular industry issue. Then invest the time and money to create something original and useful there.

Who do you lean on for content?

A clever part of IBM’s work is the collaborative element.

In the process of creating the content, they also strengthen the existing relationships with their customers and generate high level discussions about their pain points. With care, and the right senior backing, this trick can be repeated in all manner of B2B scenarios.

Identifying and then managing the best thought leaders within your organisation is key. Your own time-poor senior executives are often your most interesting spokespeople and skilled content advisors. Supplement them intelligently with the right mix of genuine high profile industry experts, customer opinions and economic commentators and you’re on the way to creating something worthwhile.

But there are plenty of marketers trying to pull off the trick. So without rigorous content planning and understanding up front, your efforts could disappear into the general background noise.

Frequency and rhythm

Prestige and credibility come with longevity. The B2B world is littered with the corpses of exec engagement programmes that never got beyond the first couple of canapé-fests. These same defunct programmes are then apparently reincarnated after a year or two, duplicating the same effort and fanfare that was expended the first time around. Surely it’s best to stick with a good one a think long term?

Also, there’s really nothing worse than those people who only come to make small talk with you when they want something…

Or just get to the point with an intelligent meeting request…

Hasse Iwarsson, UK & Ireland MD for Canon, offered up a more direct approach. A campaign with all the firepower of the senior executive team behind it, but focused on generating individual meetings.

In this case success depended on a killer conversation starter – something that would really get to the point and show a meeting would be worth the time. Something that challenged their status quo – but shows you’ve probably thought through the risks and benefits of change for them.


So the Aiming Higher campaign structured content around each target organisation’s annual report, picking out the areas where Canon could make a demonstrable difference. (The kind of marketing support that seems fit for the challenger sale, in fact)

This still required a considerable amount of rigour. It depended on taking the time to really understand the prospect’s issues, and being able to read between the lines of their annual reports to tap into the issues affecting that individual.

Whichever way you do it, invest time and thought.

In Canon’s case the marketing collateral helped set up meetings by being both pain-point focused but also provocative. It worked because of the combination of intelligence and senior commitment.

IBM’s great content marketing (and other, smaller programmes too) attracts a senior audience because it teaches them something different. This can come from original research, a senior peer group or other assorted original thinkers.

But whichever way you do it, a real C-level audience will see through half-baked marketing quickly, so don’t be tempted to cut too many corners…

No comments | Posted by Tom Upfold

November S&M Forum reflections: the C-suite and the personal touch.

November 27, 2013 Categories: Best Practice

It can sometimes feel like every marketer wants to talk to the ‘C-level’. And as we’ve said before, there are probably a few times when they should focus their efforts elsewhere.

But there’s no doubt that building and maintaining a warm relationship right at the top can reap big rewards when it comes to writing business.

Our latest Sales & Marketing Forum was a chance to hear some very interesting pointers from people who are out there actually doing it.

Our thanks go to: Hasse Iwarsson, Managing Director, Canon UK & Ireland and Andrew Grill, Partner, Social Business at IBM, not to mention, TMP’s own Carl Rigby, for an excellent intro to ‘The Challenger Sale’ in context.

Making it personal…

One of the overarching themes of the night for me was the importance of the personal touch.

Picture a C-level audience bombarded with marketing material. The vast majority is filtered out before it even gets to their desk, the vast majority of even that’s then binned. One of the quickest ways to tell if a conversation is going to be worthwhile or not is likely to be the seniority and profile of the person / people who will talk to you.

This chimes completely with our own Inside Sales team’s feedback – if it’s a meeting, how do I sell the value of the individual they’ll meet. If it’s a roundtable, can we prove that it’s a genuine peer-to-peer session, etc. etc.

There’s also another powerful psychological angle here: if it’s a reasonably well-known brand and the senior management are personally backing a programme, there must be something worth talking about.









Canon UK&I MD, Hasse Iwarsson
practising what he preaches in the
award-winning Aiming Higher
campaign – this is a shot from the DM.


… takes a lot of commitment

Getting your senior execs involved is easier said than done. Marketers are asking them to take considerable time out of a busy schedule.

But as Hasse pointed out, the management team has a responsibility to contribute to business development and customer satisfaction. So we have to propose intelligent ways of doing using their time – and clearly demonstrate how this aligns with our organisations’ strategic objectives.

Make the most of online profiles and connections

For both our own execs and our target audience, we need to think more about the kind of personal connections they may already have.

What areas of expertise and thought leadership output do they have that may be relevant to a particular prospect or event?

What kind of online profile do they have? And if they are using social media, what kind of connections can they make or have already made there?

Andrew Grill described the power of the virtual ‘tap on the shoulder’ – checking out someone’s LinkedIn profile or following them on Twitter before making formal contact.

That’s how we got him along to speak too, by the way – how about that for the proof of the social pudding?

Adopting a ‘challenger’ mentality…

Then there’s the commitment needed to prepare and understand. The cornerstone of Hasse’s work for Canon was the client’s own Annual Report. The senior exec didn’t just turn up to ask ‘what keeps you awake at night?’ because by that point they probably already had a good idea.

Being this well informed allows you challenge the status quo and offer an appealing, well-researched alternative that’s highly relevant. You’re already setting the agenda.

This, by the way, is the kind of educated provocative approach described in ‘The Challenger Sale’. (See our views on what challenger selling should mean for B2B marketers.)

Oh, and don’t underestimate the PA

I can’t do this issue justice in this short post. But at the highest levels of business the PA is a vital part of the mix. It’s really not good enough that some marketers can’t see past them as being a mere gatekeeper.

So establishing relationships between PAs is also a key part of the genuine peer-level engagement process. That’s why we’re doing some research on the topic – more to follow later.


Read Part 2: What really interests the C-suite 

No comments | Posted by Tom Upfold

Five opportunities for B2B Marketers from the rise of The Challenger Sale

November 26, 2013 Categories: Best Practice

What’s all this fuss about the challenger sale?

This work by the Corporate Executive Board is one of those concepts that just intuitively feels right: in complex sales, the most effective salespeople are those who can get the buyer thinking about their problem/opportunity in a new way and who can keep this ‘re-education’ going right the way through the sales process.

We’ve heard in interviews/presentations over recent years a number of buyers saying specifically that this is what they want from suppliers. These notes from our conversation with former government CIO John Suffolk are a great example:

The headline shift is that suppliers have the opportunity to be bolder in creating propositions to solve specific challenges. Consultants need to stop asking “what keeps you up at night?” and software vendors need to stop saying “we have the best tool on the market – how many licenses do you want to buy?” Instead, suppliers should come with specific propositions that solve well-documented business challenges – the kind of thing that we’ve described before as a ‘provocation proposition’.

This video gives a good intro to the challenger sale concept, but is no replacement for reading the book and seeing some of the examples brought to life!


So what does it mean for B2B marketers?

    1. I’m really excited by the role it creates for marketers to drive better propositions. In the solution selling world a lot of this is down to the skill of the individual salesperson and ‘differentiation’ isn’t really as important as having a comprehensive set of case studies and capabilities materials. The success of challenger selling comes down to one thing: have you got a compelling fresh perspective to educate your audience about? The vast majority of B2B marketers would have to answer ‘no’ to that question. (Unfortunately, ‘the quality of our people’ or ‘it’s about people, process and technology’ aren’t compelling challenger propositions.) 

      It may be wishful thinking, but the more the sales team are asking for support with challenger selling, the more opportunity there is for marketers to invest time in getting closer to the audience and creating compelling propositions. You may think ‘there’s nothing new to say about what we offer’ but some of the examples in the book show how to overcome that issue. By way of a shameless plug, this is exactly the approach that made our award-winning campaign with Canon such a success.

    2. It’s marketing’s job to start the re-education process early in the buying cycle. The general consensus is that around two thirds of the buying process now happens before a buyer wants to make contact with sales (although I don’t agree with this across the board). So having created a compelling challenger proposition, it’s marketing’s role to get the story out and capture/convert interest (hence a greater role for inbound marketing and influencer marketing alongside content marketing in 2014).

    3. Sell the value of engaging with sales to convert interest to action. With a lot of propositions, we know that the earlier a prospect engages with sales the more chance you have of shaping – and winning – the deal. But people still insist on marketing the ‘end product’ rather than the ‘next step’. If the next step you want someone to take is to have a meeting with your sales/business development team then sell the value of that meeting in your marketing. Work with sales on exactly how to articulate the potential value that the customer/prospect will get from a meeting. You don’t have to convince them to sign a contract with the second marketing email they receive.

    4. Equip sales to continue and convert the conversation. Sales enablement continues to emerge as a growing focus for B2B marketers. I hear more people agreeing with the sentiment that if they only had budget for either sales enablement or lead generation, they would pick sales enablement every time. Alongside a general push to look at more innovative tools and the right way to roll them out, the challenger sale offers a useful perspective on the type of sales enablement we should be considering.

      Partly, this ties back to the question of whether you have a convincing challenger proposition in the first place (if not, the content of your sales enablement may be a struggle). But the book also talks about the importance of the sales experience as a factor that’s massively important to the buying decision: how you sell being actually marginally more important than what you are selling. This challenges marketers to think about creating sales enablement assets that will help sales to engage in different ways and will give sales opportunities to keep that engagement and education happening over a sustained period of time. Think about materials to support different meeting formats, assets to re-engage with cold leads, and tools that can help different job functions reach a consensus.

    5. Work jointly with sales to progress key opportunities. Sales enablement shouldn’t be a question of throwing assets over the fence from marketing to sales. There’s lots of potential to work jointly on specific opportunities, for example with services to monitor accounts and contacts or create custom insights, and getting involved far earlier in bid support (even before the bid is live) when there’s a chance to create a challenger position with the target account. In fact, I think there’s a gap here between traditional Account Based Marketing (focused on a few key accounts) and bid support (focused on the later stages of specific major deals). But that’s a topic for another day…
3 comments | Posted by Paul Everett

B2B Data: Sexy again?

November 22, 2013 Categories: Best Practice, Experiments

Well OK, maybe not – but give Matt Hanks, chief data smoother at The Marketing Practice, two minutes to explain what his dental floss has to do with your data…

No comments | Posted by Paul Everett

Payment by results: are we ready?

November 20, 2013 Categories: Best Practice

The idea of ‘payment by results’ is an attractive one. Get it right, and it’s a great way for agencies and departments to concentrate minds on what really matters. And the drive for accountability in marketing will only make it more common. So how does it work and are we ready for it?

What is ‘payment by results’?

It’s a way of tying agency compensation to results that the business will care about. That could be basing some fees on leads, pipeline, or even closed revenue. To quote that horrible phrase, it’s about ‘having skin in the game’ (a prize to the first person who sends me a credible source for this saying).

Done well, it can be the basis for building an effective partnership between an agency and marketing department. It’s also an opportunity for agencies to influence or take responsibility for the factors that directly impact end results.

But there are some important foundations you will need in place for it to succeed.

Setting the right targets

Incentives work, particularly financial ones. But that’s also a challenge. If you are going to do payment by results, you can be sure that lots of energy will go on the results being paid for. And if they’re not absolutely right, you might end up with some unwelcome outcomes. (Some have argued that the whole credit crisis can be tied to poorly thought-out incentives – see Michael Lewis’s The Big Short for one).

The most obvious example of this is when payment based on marketing-generated leads or early pipeline leads to sales teams wasting their time on poorly qualified opportunities.

There is also a common problem where marketing and sales have different objectives. Let’s say marketing wants to generate opportunities for ‘high-value’ business consultancy, but the sales team’s bonuses are based on a specific technical product. Sound familiar? We’ve certainly seen lots of examples of this or similar misalignments. In these cases, both parties have skin in the game; the problem is they’re different games.

Which leads me nicely to the real rub…

Trust and collaboration with sales

One way to get the incentives right is to pay by end results: sales qualified leads or closed revenue. But to do this requires real trust between marketing and sales (wince).

At the very least, we need to find ways to work effectively with sales beyond the usual handover points. Our responsibilities cannot end when a lead is generated, for example. We need to support sales through the qualification stage to close. It’s not traditional agency territory so it can feel uncomfortable at first, but with goodwill and concerted effort it can work extremely well.

Taking a measured approach

One requirement for this approach is the ability to track leads to revenue accurately. But more than just good systems, payment by results requires a well-planned and long-term approach. Partly because of the need to have marketing plans that focus on an entire audience journey, rather than a single touch point. But also because, if you are going to tie payment by results to the business objectives that really matter, there can be no papering over of cracks.

Payment by results should discourage short-term thinking and encourage departments and agencies to look at the fundamentals of their approach. It is this potential that makes it so attractive but it’s also perhaps why we don’t see more of it. But, if we are serious about raising the profile of marketing in the business, it might be something we need to get to grips with.

Based on an article written for B2B Marketing

No comments | Posted by David van Schaick

How to develop a big idea

November 19, 2013 Categories: Best Practice

This little one-pager is one of the training tools we have to help people think laterally and develop innovative solutions.

I’m wary of the phrase ‘big idea’. It’s bandied about a lot. It’s easy to think of the ‘big’ being about pomp and largesse. It can lead people to think up solutions then look for a problem.

But lateral thinking is a critical skill in any marketing role. The challenge when training people on it is that there is no one way to do it. What you can teach, however, are techniques that help people to look at problems in a different way.
This one-pager summarises a few of those I’ve found most useful. Still the best for me is an old classic, Kipling’s six serving men: who, what, where, how, why and when.


No comments | Posted by David van Schaick