Pay Attention to Me!

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Eight ways B2B marketers can better engage their audiences inside and outside of the inbox.

Customers hate being ignored, and, chances are, marketers aren't too fond of it either. Yet, a new study from iris Chicago suggests that B2B marketers are used to receiving the cold shoulder. According to the B2B marketing agency's “2015 B2B Participation Survey,” 63% of the 200 respondents say they delete emails without reading them, and 45% of respondents—most of whom are B2B marketers—list traffic and awareness as their top challenge.

Jennifer Stoll, strategy director at iris Chicago, attributes this overlook to the abundance of noise within the marketplace. However, she says that “participation branding” can help cut through the clutter.

“Participation branding is the idea that you can't just speak to your customers,” she says. “You have to be engaged in a conversation with them. It's really a two-way street and having a meaningful presence in their lives.”

So based on iris Chicago's survey findings, here are eight pieces of advice to help B2B marketers attain and maintain customers' attention.

1. Be clear with your messaging. Customers aren't interested in playing games. That's why Stoll urges marketers to give subscribers a clear reason why they should pay attention to company messaging.

“If you receive an email communication that is vague [or] it doesn't offer you anything that's really actionable or insightful to what specifically [the marketer's] mind is on, it's so easy to hit that delete button,” she says.

2. Target specific segments or personas. Forty-three percent of respondents don't use personas in their marketing, and Stoll says this lack of segmentation is a mistake.

“You can't be everything to everyone,” she says. “There's a lot of noise out there. And if you try to do that, there's a high probability that you're going to get lost.”

Three to four target segments is the most manageable figure, according to 56% of respondents, followed by five to eight (24%). For marketers struggling to find their ideal number, Stoll recommends taking a crawl-walk-run approach. “If you're going to start with something, start small,” she says. Also, when creating personas, Stoll advises marketers to consider all of the parties involved in the buying process, including decision makers, influencers, and advocates.

3. Know customers' preferred tones. No two customers are exactly the same. So, why should marketers speak to them with the same tone? When asked if they prefer to receive content with a professional or friendly tone, 66% of respondents opted for the professional content—a more than four-time increase compared to the 15% who selected friendly content. Similarly, when asked if they'd rather receive messages containing examples or advice, 70% selected the example-driven content, versus 10% who chose the advice-driven insight. Stoll says leveraging personas can help marketers determine the right tone for their audiences.

4. Ensure that your content is relevant and timely. Creating pertinent content is essential in marketing. According to the survey, 55% of respondents say they don't unsubscribe from the emails they tend to ignore or delete because the company sometimes sends valuable content. 

This relevancy piece should play into marketers' messaging frequency. Twenty-six percent of respondents say they'd rather receive a monthly edition from work-related publications while another quarter (24%) would rather receive content as soon as it's available. Plus, 23% say they'd prefer to receive editions twice a month that contained more recent content.

As for what kind of content they should produce, Stoll advises marketers to consult their social networks. Doing so, she says, can help them understand the types of insights customers are looking for.

“Go to communities where they're sharing ideas,” she says, “and see really what they're asking each other and make sure that your content is focused on that.”

 5. Tag your content. When it comes to accessing content, many marketers rely on their own resourcefulness. In fact, about 79% of respondents explore websites and blogs that pop up in their search results when seeking out information for a work project. Similarly, about 60% say they look up the most recent news about a topic. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Stoll advises marketers to tag their content as much as possible so that it's seen by the right audiences. However, search isn't a priority for about half of the marketers surveyed. According to the study, 46% of respondents don't use paid search and don't plan to.

6. Ask professionals outside of marketing to generate content.  Email nurturing campaigns aren't easy, Stoll says, especially considering the amount of pressure marketers are under to constantly have something relevant and engaging to talk about. Perhaps that's why 26% of respondents say they don't do email nurturing campaigns and they don't plan to. Stoll advises marketers to share the burden and to ask professionals in other departments to assist in the content production process.

“It's important to be out there right now, to have a voice, and to break through the clutter with what you want to say,” she says.

7. Don't underestimate the value of face-to-face. In today's digital world, it can be easy for marketers to lose sight of the importance of face-to-face engagement. “A lot of times we can become desensitized to seeing each other and talking to each other,” Stoll says. “You sit in meetings, and a lot of people are hiding behind screens.” However, many of the study's respondents seem to still value in-person interactions. In fact, 62% of respondents consider face-to-face or live interactions absolutely necessary when pitching new business. Stoll finds this face-to-face engagement to be “refreshing” in today's day and age.

“You're entering into a relationship with someone, essentially,” she says, “and being able to look someone in the eye and understand who they are, where they're coming from, and how that chemistry [is] still really important.”

8. Accept that you will be ignored sometimes—then plan for it. As much as marketers want to be liked by everyone, they have to accept that they're still going to receive the cold shoulder at times. In fact, 56% of respondents admit to having signed up for a webinar or event just to receive the post-event materials.

Instead of feeling frustrated over this lack of engagement, Stoll recommends preparing for it. She says that marketers can create a list of the top 10 things people missed from the webinar or create another short digest to get people to watch the webinar's recording.


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