What's working in B2B Marketing?There's no one way to deliver ROI… But there is one place

Subscribe via email

RSSContact us via LinkedInFollow us

Evaluation criteria for marketing automation systems

December 18, 2013 Categories: Best Practice

Planning to implement a marketing automation system? Of course – it’s all the rage these days.

No doubt you’ve already mapped out in detail how you’ll be using it to support your marketing objectives? Excellent!

And built a change programme plan to make sure your organisation will be ready? Pleased to hear it.

But have you put together a list of criteria to evaluate the different vendors to compare the likes of Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot and Silverpop? No? Well then hopefully this list of 60-odd considerations will be useful…

No comments | Posted by Paul Everett

Direct mail: success is in the targeting

December 17, 2013 Categories: Best Practice

b2b direct mail best practice

We all know email’s handy. When we register for anything, email is often the default setting or our first choice over post or telephone. And it’s a cost-effective way for companies to market to their audience too – enabling a wider reach than ever before.

As a result, we receive less and less in the post. The Royal Mail predicts that the number of letters we receive will more than halve by 2023 compared to this year*. This means that when we do get something through the letter box, or a beautifully-crafted package is delivered, it’s always that bit more exciting than just receiving an email.

Take a closer look

To uncover the potential that direct mail holds in grabbing attention in today’s digital world, B2B Marketing magazine has put together a best practice guide with hints and tips from a group of experts.

I’ve contributed a section to the guide on targeting – in my mind the most important part of any marketing campaign.

After all, direct marketing obeys the same laws that govern all marketing. And that states that 40 percent of your success will be down to your targeting, 40 percent to your offer and 20 percent to your creative.

Read the full guide here to find out about getting your data in order, the art of segmentation, and getting past the gatekeeper (more affectionately known as the PA).

The opposite of lazy

Most of all, I want to reassure you that it’s not lazy campaigning to send a mail out to as few as ten people. It’s clever campaigning. After all, direct mail can be expensive, so the more drilled down the targeting, the better.


* The outlook for UK mail, volumes to 2023, PwC

No comments | Posted by Matt Hanks

What’s working in B2B Social Media? (December 2013 update)

December 16, 2013 Categories: Best Practice, Experiments

Wrapping up a busy year (again) for social media, we’ve pulled together a presentation sharing some of the most interesting research into how the B2B audience are using it. There are deep dives into Twitter and LinkedIn best practice as well as pull-outs like the 25 most social CIOs in the Fortune 250.

And there were three big updates in November that will be particularly interesting to track in 2014 (also summarised in the presentation):

LinkedIn showcase pages: these are sub-pages sitting under company pages on LinkedIn. If you have a range of different topics that your audience(s) might be interested in, this is a useful way of separating them out and providing specific feeds on each to LinkedIn followers. By way of an experiment, we’ve set one up on B2B social media: http://www.linkedin.com/company/b2b-social-media

Twitter Ads opened up to all businesses: so anyone with a Twitter account and a credit card can start promoting their tweets or their accounts. We’ve currently got an experiment running on this so we’ll share more in January. One less well-known feature is the lead gen card, which lets you directly capture the email address of a Twitter user (if the user wants you to get in touch, or to subscribe to your newsletter or attend an event etc).

Facebook custom audience advertising now available to all businesses: there’s one particularly intriguing option where you can upload a list of customer/prospect email addresses and target ads to them IF they use that same email address to login to Facebook. There are some big questions about this – how many people use their business email addresses as Facebook logins (maybe more in SMB than Enterprise companies)? How would people feel about being targeted on Facebook? We look forward to testing it to answer some of the questions…

No comments | Posted by Paul Everett

Who is the real Matt Hanks?

December 13, 2013 Categories: Best Practice, Experiments

So the second of our ‘Data, Metaphorically Speaking’ videos has gone live this week. I hope you enjoy it!

I thought it’d be a good time to address a couple of potentially career-limiting questions…

Is the character in the films really me?

I’d say ‘no’ – it’s all the invention of a couple of twisted individuals with too much time on their hands: Tom Upfold and Paul Everett.

But if you ask Tom, he’ll tell you it’s only so easy to write the scripts because he can imagine me saying/doing everything in them. And Paul puts it more poetically:

“…like an infinity pool overlooking the sea, it’s impossible to tell where the real Matt Hanks stops and the Chief Data Smoother begins…”


Why did I agree to do it?

I think data’s going to be the most important discipline in B2B marketing over the next few years. If we don’t start treating it more strategically, then effective marketing will basically grind to a halt.

‘Content is King’ is the marketing catchphrase right now – but if you don’t know who’s accessing your content, can’t keep track of what they do next, and don’t treat them properly when they do get in touch with you, then I don’t see the point in producing it.

Even more basically, if you don’t know who your customers are, who your best prospects are, how they’ve been responding to your marketing, and which marketing activities are working best – and if you can’t tie this in to your sales CRM systems for follow-up – then you may as well call it a day.

And it’s surprising how many people talk about the potential of ‘big data’ who are several years away from properly managing their ‘little data.’

Anyway, I’ve written lots about this in various data and direct mail best practice guides. (There’s a shameless plug straight from the Chief Data Smoother’s playbook!) And when Paul and Tom suggested these couple of videos I did worry that I wanted people to take data more seriously not less. But the point is that I suspect (hope) that these videos will reach more people than any whitepaper will – and anything that gets people thinking about data is a good thing.

It may be a bit tongue-in-cheek (ok, a lot) but I also like the way it doesn’t play on the whole data ‘geek’ idea. I’ve got a team of brilliant people and – with only a couple of exceptions – you wouldn’t describe any of them as ‘geeks’. If data’s going to step out of the back office and contribute more to marketing strategy, it’s like we say in the first film: “we can’t make data sexy, but we can make it smoother”

It’s early days still but based on the comments we’ve had so far I think it’s working. But I am getting a bit concerned about what situation they’ll dream up to put me in next. I’m hoping something based on a set of spa treatments but expect it’ll be boxing or something  like that.

Any questions or ideas for future films, I’d love to hear from you!


No comments | Posted by Matt Hanks

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