Top tools to reach business execs

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Whitepapers, webcasts, blog and virtual trade shows are all popular tools to reach busy executives. Four experts share their tips on how to best take advantage of these strategies.


Ray Manna
Director of interactive strategy, Doremus New York

Even though executives are very busy, I believe there are opportunities to reach them using blogs. But how do you, as a marketer, make your blog posts relevant to this elusive, time-crunched group?

First of all, show passion. You do this by committing to writing the blog as often as possible. A stale blog does more harm to your efforts than good. It shouts, “I'm not really that passionate about this.”

Also, really know your stuff. Try to include insightful data to support your hypotheses, or some new information about the related business environment and trends. What are others in the mainstream media saying about your brand, your competitors or your industry?  

Be real. Just as using the right vocabulary is important, so is sounding authentic and informal. Your style should be stream of consciousness. This adds credibility to your message and separates you from mainstream media, which is heavily polished and written for the widest readership — not necessarily your desired readership.

Tell a story. Some of the best blogs teach me something, and do it in a very entertaining way. BearingPoint's Paul Dunay interviews thought leaders such as Google's web analytics guru Avinash Kaushik and talks about engagement metrics on the Web, posting the interview within a podcast. This is great, usable information and delivered in an interesting way.

Give credit where credit is due. This is huge. Cite passages or rich media from other blogs and give credit to their authors. Insert links to those blogs when they add value and relevance to your thoughts. Your sources should, at some point, return the favor. The more blogs that point to yours, the farther your message will reach. 

Marketing blogs pay off when insightful and provocative content engages the right audience to respond.

THE TAKEAWAY:
Keep in mind that b-to-b readers look to blogs for passion and authenticity


Denise Persson
CMO and VP of marketing, ON24

The virtual event is the next big thing for b-to-b marketers, and is rapidly becoming an integral part of the demand generation toolbox. The economic downturn and the need to do more with fewer resources have boosted their appeal even further. 

Forrester reports that more than 80% of marketers rate webinars as one of their top three marketing tactics for lead generation today. Virtual shows take webcasting and webinars to the next level by adding a virtual-world component that allows you to replicate a trade show environment online.

What makes virtual shows so compelling is that they are far more engaging than any other communication tool. Participants can view keynote presentations, interact with product specialists, participate in product demonstrations, pick up product collateral, network with peers and much more.

Unlimited reach is another important factor. Attendees can participate in a virtual show from the convenience of their desks. Geographical boundaries are erased, and you can therefore more easily attract a large audience. Better yet, the cost is a fraction of that of an in-person event.

Virtual shows provide detailed intelligence on participants, which helps marketers qualify leads and determine if they should be handed over to sales or stay with marketing for nurturing. And the qualification process is fast, as you capture all the information about your participants during the registration process. You're not left with handwritten notes or a stack of business cards to enter into your CRM system.

Lead generation from virtual shows doesn't stop when the live event stops. The show lives on, available on demand and to generate leads for as long as you want. Marketers need to ensure that their marketing mix is optimized for efficiency and effectiveness.

THE TAKEAWAY:
Virtual trade shows offer unlimited reach and can help marketers qualify leads


Marc Blumer
Senior marketing strategist, Slack Barshinger

If your marketing objective is to move upstream and gain traction among executives, whitepapers absolutely belong in your tactical toolkit. To be successful, however, it's critical that your efforts be specifically targeted to both the executive's business challenges and media preferences. Here are some tips to help you appeal to even the busiest decision maker:

First, don't try to pass off collateral as a whitepaper. At our agency, we classify whitepaper topics into three buckets, all of which can work well for executives: those that explain trends and developments in your prospect's industry; those that document problems or issues your prospect might face; and those that teach strategies and techniques for success.

Note there isn't a sales pitch in the bunch. Remember, a whitepaper is an early buy cycle tactic. So the goal is to provide something of value regardless of whether the prospect buys from you.

Put in the time to develop content of value. You likely have the internal expertise to craft a compelling whitepaper. But remember: this takes both resources and time. You'll need a writer who can break down information and present it in a compelling manner. You'll need access to subject matter experts for interviews and reviews. And you may even need to conduct primary and/or secondary research.

If you can't dedicate these resources, consider a partner. Analysts, publishers and agencies all do content creation.

Expect to work to get your content out there. Once you've made the investment in crafting a great whitepaper, you'll need to go the last mile and get it in front of executives. This requires an actual campaign plan. Beyond just posting it on your Web site and passing it to sales, think postal mail, search engine marketing, content distribution networks, PR and any other channel you can leverage.

THE TAKEAWAY:
Whitepapers are not sales pitches, but can be the first step toward a buy


Ann Roskey
VP of marketing and audience development, Accela Communications Inc.

A study by KnowledgeStorm and MarketingSherpa in March 2007 found that 80% of buyers rely on vendors for educational material to solve a problem — and that they also want it to be customized to address their industry, job function or stage in the buying cycle.

With buyers turning to vendor Web sites for research, marketers can meet this demand by adopting an online content strategy that employs on-demand video webcasts to address all prospects in the buying cycle. This is especially desirable in complex sales where you have multiple people involved with varying levels of product knowledge. For example, people beginning to research a solution will seek out introductory explanations of concepts, whereas those at the end of the buying cycle will be interested in detailed product comparisons. The interactive characteristics of an on-demand webcast allow you to create one program that offers customized content choices to keep more people engaged and learning about your product or service.

Interactive branching can be used to present content menu options, or decision points, based on the buyer's need to keep viewers engaged. Segmented content not only benefits site visitors, but viewing activity can also be tracked to offer insight into a prospect's stage in the buying process.

Webcasts can drive time out of the sales cycle when built on a platform that includes reporting metrics and behavior analysis you simply don't get with text documents. Form responses and segment view times provide intelligence about viewer's interests, as well as the path they took while navigating the program. The number of downloads that occur during a program measures interaction and identifies registrants interested enough to browse beyond the program content. This kind of “engagement intelligence” can help your sales team prioritize leads, or develop a follow-up strategy that is aligned with viewer interests.

THE TAKEAWAY:
Webcasts offer the opportunity to create customized content choices

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