What do marketing professionals from industries as diverse as food service, laboratory supply manufacturing, data storage and financial services all have in common? Each of them see consumer data and content management as keys to the future of channel marketing in their respective industry.
Panelists at Business Marketing Association Minnesota‘s February event, “Strategies to Win: The Evolution of Channel Marketing” all agreed that the level at which their company leverages data in its marketing channels has increased significantly in recent years. Marketers are leveraging consumer data to identify trends and better craft B2B buyer personas. Increasingly, these personas are targeted with inbound content marketing tactics to bring them along to a purchase decision.
As these B2B marketing leaders have helped to guide their companies through changes in data and content technologies, they gathered at Golden Valley, MN’s Metropolitan Ballroom to share their expertise with other marketers.
• Cory Rogers (moderator), VP Business Development, SmartBase Solutions
• Chris Hawver, Director of Channel Marketing for the Americas, Seagate
• Heather Anfang, VP Marketing, U.S. Dairy Foods, Land O’Lakes
• Barbra Merwin, Senior Vice President, Strategic Product Development & Marketing, AmTrust Consumer Services
• John Peters, Director of Marketing, NuAire
#TeamTopRank was there too, learning, networking and creating content – just like this post. Here are 12 B2B channel marketing takeaways we brought back to the office:
Debbie Friez – Social Media Lead
1. Chris Hawver, Seagate, commented that many of their channel partners do not have the resources do real lead generation. So, it’s up to them to take the lead and provide resources and leads to partners. He encouraged marketers to understand many channel partners represent multiple products, so there is competition for the accounts. You need to gain understanding of where your stand, what accounts are using your products and then provide value by suggesting additional account targets.
2. Although some data is plentiful to a large companies, like Land O’Lakes, their wholesale food distributors have traditionally not provided data to them, says Heather Anfang. With the downturn in the restaurant business, the distributors are now working with suppliers and end users to better review overall category management, including providing data. She went on to comment on a new emphasis on understanding overall restaurant trends, like understanding where their food is sourced and people only eating two meals a day, to better meet the needs of the market.
Evan Prokop – Digital Marketing Manager
3. For large companies that aren’t currently leveraging a data driven approach to marketing, taking the first steps towards integrating data and analytics into their marketing departments can be intimidating.Rather than trying to go from 0-60 at once, Chris Hawver (@ChrisHawver) from Seagate recommends starting small and scaling from there. First gather the data, then create some initial reports that demonstrate the potential value of these kinds of insights.Presenting these initial findings to a smaller group within your company can help to build momentum and supporters of a new approach, which makes it much more likely that your ideas will gain the support from leadership that they need in order to be implemented at scale.
4. Several of the panelists said that the integration of marketing automation has been transformative to their marketing operations, but expressed that a challenge is keeping up with the demands of creating high quality content to use in lead nurturing.If marketing automation is a sweet car, content is the gas that keeps it running. Make sure you’re keeping your tank topped up with high octane content or you might end up stranded on the side of the road. If the demands of content creation are intimidating, partnering with an agency skilled in content marketing (like TopRank) can be an investment that pays for itself many times over.
James Anderson – Director of Content Marketing
5. Data should be commonly sourced, so that everyone is singing from the same songbook. Heather Angang of Land O’Lakes wonderfully summarized what many marketers experience in larger organizations when data is available, but only to the few who deal with it on a regular basis.
6. Provide buyers with information and data that not only addresses problem, but creates awareness of environment. Chris Hawver of Seagate said his organization saw up to 44% response rate increase in qualified leads by using data to create credibility.
Joel Carlson – Social Media Lead
7. Barbra shared how it’s important to know your competitors. Competitor data may be difficult or impossible to collect, but businesses can get an edge in figuring out how they are different and can then market how they’re different to vendors.
8. Heather shared how her company has switched from category management to holistic management. Learning their distributors and operators so well intricately, by reviewing their data, that they can sell to the their needs.
Katherine Steiner — Account Manager:
9. Heather Angang from Land O’ Lakes emphasized that in digital marketing it is crucial to use data to be strategic rather than just transactional. Correctly structuring a marketing campaign around data can result in an expanded customer audience, and a more strategic relationship with business partners.
10. According to John Peters from NuAire, the goal of digital marketing is to track opportunities in order to influence purchasing. Using marketing automation and sales communication platforms across the organization can centralize customer data and help marketers identify what stage of the buying cycle they are in. This insight gives marketers the opportunity to more strategically target customers, resulting in greater ROI.
Katie Konrath — Content Marketing Lead
11. If you’re developing content as part of your channel marketing, it’s essential to also develop a content distribution strategy. If your channel partners either can’t find or can’t access the content you’ve created for them, it’s the same as not creating content at all. In addition, consider the data potential of the content you create. Chris Hawver noted that Seagate provides all their marketing content digitally so that they can track who the content is sent to, when it is opened, and how that person then engages with their site.
12. When shaping your channel marketing, think about how you can help your partners as they reach out to their customers. Barbra Merwin shared how AmTrust reshaped both the products they offered and their marketing after increased regulation put pressure on their channel partners. During a downturn in their industry, they were able to succeed by helping their partners feel comfortable that AmTrust was providing marketing and products that were regulatory-compliant.
Top photo by TopRank’s Joel Carlson.