Opinions, best practices and research into B2B marketing strategy and practices

Why trust and intimacy are key to Three Voices™ budgeting

If you’re embarking on a Three Voices™ strategic project, there’s something that might make you a little uncomfortable – but relax, get used to it, it’s part of a new way of working that demands more of your supplier relations but which will also provide much more value at the end of the day. Continue reading

The role of storytelling in Three Voices™ strategies

In a conversation two days ago with social media veteran Jomar Reyes, one of the people who inspired us to write The Death of Propaganda, he spoke enthusiastically about the role of storytelling in B2B marketing and communication—and emphasized that, in his view, storytelling was a key component of any Three Voices™ strategy. Continue reading

Adobe, Inc.’s Voice of Industry

One example of an owned-media Voice of Industry activity is Adobe, Inc.’s CMO.com (www.cmo.com). Branded discretely with a small Adobe logo in the top right corner, the site offers “digital marketing insight for chief marketing officers”, including news items, trend articles, announcements, information about marketing analytics, resources and marketing-specific web sites, blog marketing, and other information about key players in the digital marketing space. The site carries articles, reports, surveys, statistics and commentary from industry experts and other digital marketing resources with a relatively long “shelf life”. Continue reading

Does Three Voices™ strategy work best for knowledge-intensive companies?

As the authors of The Death of Propaganda, which expounds the Three Voices™  framework, in our opinion, while its principles provide useful insights for companies of all kinds, a Three Voices™ approach is best suited to knowledge-intensive companies—in particular, those whose key audiences are strongly involved with the company’s product or service area. Take the example of Adobe Inc.’s Voice of Industry site CMO.com,  Adobe’s audience is highly interested (or should be!) in ways of optimizing their marketing activities via information systems. So done right, it’s not a especially difficult to get decision-makers, at least those in larger companies who can afford Adobe’s marketing automation system, regularly involved with the subject matter.

On the other hand, we’ve tried to imagine whether, for example, a manufacturer of stainless steel screws could benefit from implementing a Three Voices™ strategy. The answer, we concluded, was “unlikely”. We may be wrong, but we find it hard to envision regular, meaningful discussions or user communities thriving in company-owned or sponsored Voice of Industry contexts around the topic of screws. Few things please us more, however, than to have our views challenged and our eyes opened to new applications of this framework.

Three Voices™ strategy and thought leadership

More and more, knowledge-intensive companies are beginning to talk about a comparatively new competitive parameter—at least in a marketing rather than a product delivery context. “Thought leadership” is business jargon for an entity that is recognized for having innovative ideas. The term is said to have been coined in 1994 by Joel Kurtzman, editor-in-chief of the Booz Allen Hamilton magazine, Strategy & Business, but hasn’t been widely used in B2B contexts beyond the publications of professional consulting firms. And it seems there’s money in it, too. IBM believes so strongly in the benefits of thought leadership that it established the Institute for Business Value (IBV), comprised of more than 50 consultants who conduct research and analysis across multiple industries and functional disciplines. In our own industry, we’ve noticed IBV publications such as the 2011 Global CMO Study turning up on the desks of our clients and being widely referenced in online Voice of Customer and Voice of Industry contexts, proving perhaps, that high-quality, credible content reaches far indeed.

We believe that thought leadership lies at the heart of a Three Voices™ strategy for knowledge-intensive companies, and that Voice of Industry activities are the prime vehicle for promoting your company as a thought leader.

IntegratedB2B goes live!

Welcome to the very first post in what Michael Best, David Hoskin and I are hoping will be the first of a long line of knowledge-sharing, inspiring and at times mildly amusing insights, opinions and the like.

We’re calling the blog IntegratedB2B to reflect a gap we see in the literature – namely, that most of the attention is focused on online marketing where the real battle, in our minds, is on helping marketing and communication people to see the Big Picture, which for B2B (should) almost always involve integrating online and offline activities in a meaningful way.

IntegratedB2B is born from countless conversations my co-bloggers and I have with both professional colleagues and our B2B clients about how to close a steadily widening gap between the way they communicate with their B2B audiences and the way those same audiences want to be communicated to. And about how to use both offline and online tools in a tightly integrated way to do it.

Things have changed amazingly quickly in B2B marketing and communication. Yet it seems that many marketing and communication managers haven’t realized it. Nor have they realized how much they need to change what they’re doing to reflect a world in which the traditional B2B buyer is fast dying out. That lack of knowledge may sound unbelievable – and I risk stepping on some toes – but I’ve spoken with enough corporate marketers and communicators to know it’s largely the truth.

So that’s the first problem this blog will tackle in the months to come: helping B2B companies to understand the new breed of B2B buyer now ruling their world. The second is figuring out what to do about it. I’d like to welcome you on this journey, hoping that you will find inspiration and motivation in my own writings, those of my regular co-bloggers and others who have been advising B2B companies for many years. And I also hope that your participation and feedback will help to keep IntegratedB2B relevant and useful for years to come.

Glad to have you aboard!

Your Content Strategy – why really, it’s the No. 1 factor in communication success

You will have heard the phrase “Content is King” uttered at numerous seminars aimed at enlightening marketing and communication professionals like yourself about the virtues of going online with your communication strategy. Forget it – it has all too quickly become old news. Instead, make way for what may seem like even more hype: “Content is God”. Continue reading

Is your IT department (and SharePoint) standing in the way of your B2B marketing success?

B2B marketers and communicators I talk to are worried about their IT department. On the one hand, they know the useful role IT plays in many different ways to enable the company and to keep things on track with respect to compliance, security and so on. On the other hand, they see IT’s push for standardization across systems as something that stands in firmly in the way of keeping up with competitive, up-to-date marketing practices. And they’re right – the traditional IT department agenda and processes do present challenges for doing a good job as a B2B marketer.

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We’ve had a “Voice of Customer” program for 10 years – is that good?

The book “The Death of Propaganda – B2B Buyer Behavior Has Changed. Now it’s Your Turn.” co-authored by me, Michael Best and David Hoskin, talks about three concepts that are absolutely vital for B2B marketers to grasp: Voice of the Company; Voice of the Industry; and Voice of Customer. Communicating with all three of these voices is mandatory if you want to fully address the needs of the new breed of B2B buyer.

Experienced marketers may feel a little confused about our use of the already established term “Voice of Customer”. Voice of the Customer is a term that has traditionally been used to describe special programs for involving customers in core corporate activities such as product development and the design of customer-facing functions. Such activities usually involve inviting key accounts or a cross-section of customers to special, offline events where they can provide direct input and feedback to management.

Today, this type of Voice of Customer program is basically a dinosaur. A relic. An outdated idea that was only ever useful as a far-too-small plaster on a gaping wound in the way businesses were interacting with their markets. Enlightened B2B marketers now look past this type of program to get customer input on customers’ terms rather than those of the company.

So, for the purposes of our Three Voices strategic model, we took over the old terminology and gave it a make-over, re-positioning “Voice of Customer” as the all-important conversations going on between B2B prospects and buyers about which solutions, and which brands, should be on their short lists. We recommend our B2B clients to have their ears firmly to the ground wherever such conversations are taking place – both online and offline – and to be ready to respond to salient topics and opportunities as they surface. “The Death of Propaganda” has much more to say on the subject, and I’ll try to make the new direction of  Voice of Customer as a term even clearer in posts to follow.