Strategy

Growth Hacking B2B Marketing

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What marketing hacks can turn into growth for your organization?

What exactly is a marketing hack?

Well, according to Wikipedia, the definitive source for everything: ”Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business. … Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business.”

All B2B Marketing Is NOT The Same

SMB, Middle-Market & Enterprise B2B Marketing each demand their own specific strategies. And there are marketers who work in each of these areas that would love to take advantage of any kind of “hack” especially one that promises “growth.”

There are countless articles that have been written, are being written and will be written about growth hacking. After all, it is one of the shiny new objects of B2B marketing, as was “Account Based Marketing,” or “Social Selling” just a few years back. With anything that is seemingly new, and definitely popular, there is a lot of noise surrounding it.

The idea of experimentation or testing in marketing is certainly not new.  What is new, is the speed at which experimentation is taking place among those who are truly practicing “growth hacking.” Creating an MVP (minimal viable product) type of marketing, and sending it out into the world sometimes only half baked, has allowed marketers to better immediately understand the viability and success of the marketing strategy or tactic.

Tactical Marketing Tryouts

Many of the articles written deliver lists of great “growth marketing hacks” which are really nothing more than a laundry list of tactical ideas for marketers to consider and try out in a limited time frame. I guess that “Tactical Marketing Tryouts” could be classified as growth hacking, however that’s not how I would set out to define it and unfortunately, a great many marketers have mistaken “Tactical Marketing Tryouts” for B2B Growth Hacking Marketing.

What modern marketers ought to be considering is how changing their strategy might change their marketing outcomes.  Strategy is a whole level up from tactical experimentation, and here is where the concept of growth hacking can lead to some really big ideas, and / or changes in direction.

Let’s say that your strategy for marketing a B2B SaaS product aimed at Enterprise accounts is heavily based on inbound marketing utilizing a pull marketing strategy with heavy content development.

In the true spirit of growth hacking, you decided to throw out that strategy, in the hopes of creating some MVP (minimal viable product) strategies that you could roll out in a hurry to see what works and what doesn’t.

One of the 5 different strategies that you developed in the growth hacking scrum (see Agile Project Management) is centered around a hybrid mix of account based marketing, social selling and “snack-able” video content assets.  You decide to roll this out against 5 of the “named accounts” or strategic accounts you have identified and within a few weeks, this strategy seems to be outperforming the old tried and true inbound pull marketing strategy, bringing MQLs, SQLs and SALs in faster and with better quality than your previous strategy.

Congratulations. You have successfully practiced B2B Growth Hacking Marketing.

Now, let’s look at why “Tactical Marketing Tryouts” isn’t really growth hacking.

Had you not changed your strategy, you would have embarked on a journey to test various pieces of “inbound, pull marketing content” which you have considered to be “B2B growth hacking marketing.”

Imagine that you tried 20 different content types, in 5 different content formats, and used different landing pages and calls to action to attempt to improve your results through “B2B Growth Hacking Marketing.” Sure, some of the content tactics may have performed better than your original content, and you may have increased inquiries and prospects through those different content pieces, but you would have never learned that your flawed strategy was preventing you from being successful.

Top of Their Game

B2B marketers who are at the top of their game, have really always practiced a form of “growth hacking.”

Testing is critical to any successful marketing program and good B2B marketers have always known this. What is different about the theory of growth hacking is the abbreviated time period allocated for testing. Rolling out a marketing rapid prototype after rapid prototype in a small scaled section of your marketing will enable you to get a “read” on how your experimentation in marketing is performing.

Yes, you can use this process to test tactics as well as strategies, and I encourage marketers test everything. Tactics, content, calls to action, landing pages, and most importantly, marketing strategy.

B2B Growth Hacking Marketing can be done in SMB, Middle Market and Enterprise B2B marketing, as even though each discipline of B2B marketing is decidedly different, the same process for testing, and for rolling out rapid prototypes of marketing strategy can be accomplished.

I applaud those who have developed the process and idea of growth hacking. Even if the idea isn’t brand new, it still reinforces the best practice of testing, trying new things, and learning to fail good.

One of my favorite quotes on the subject is from Thomas A. Edison who said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Go out and embrace failure, as Edison did, and you may just wind up developing a B2B Marketing Growth Hack that moves your organization forward at a speed and in ways you never imagined.

A Digital Beginning: Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World (Chapter 2)

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Chapter 2
A Digital Beginning

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The late Dr. Wayne Dwyer said “Go for it now.  The future is promised to no one.”  This is sound advice for life and for ending the procrastination about when your Medicare marketing organization should begin to create a digital strategy.  “Go for it now.”

Let’s address the elephant in the room.  Every Medicare marketer has numbers to make.  It is no secret that direct mail is the primary workhorse of Medicare Marketing, providing the necessary leads for inside sales, brokers and agents and driving self-serve transactional online sales.   Jeopardizing an organization’s ability to meet or exceed the sales goals by moving budget out of direct mail and into digital is not a viable option nor is slicing a digital budget out of DRTV, Print, Events or other high performing channels.

Mobile is No Longer Considered A Channel
To be clear, more than ½ of all digital advertising occurs on mobile devices.  The remainder of this book will incorporate strategies that are as much mobile as they are desktop.   For modern marketers, there is no longer a separate category for mobile, and for Medicare marketers, the reality that our audience is now predominantly mobile must be acknowledged and prepared for.  All of the strategies and tactics contained within are applicable to mobile and I strongly encourage the consideration of cross platform mobile digital advertising, for search, display, video and through mobile specific apps (applications.) Don’t expect to see a “Mobile Marketing” section- everything here is for mobile and desktop.

A Digital Marketing Strategy is More Than A Digital Media Strategy
Who is responsible to create and execute the digital strategy?   Is it the marketing department of the Medicare organization?   Perhaps it’s the marketing agency that works with the Medicare organization, or could it be the Media agency who is responsible?  I’ve seen it all 3 ways.   Due to budget limitations smaller Medicare organizations task their own marketing department to do this, while most of the time it is the marketing agency that creates the strategy, while the media agency is generally responsible for executing the strategy, and implementing the ad spend as directed.

Best practice calls for the Medicare organization’s marketing agency to create the strategy.   After all, the marketing agency is orchestrating all channels, and needs to assume the role of the lead agency directing all marketing endeavors of the organization including media.  The lead agency will best understand the brand, the brand values, and chances are they either helped to write the positioning and messaging of both the brand and the products.

Every best-practice lead agency will depend on input from the media agency and the marketing department of the Medicare organization to develop the best possible strategy and implementation roadmap.

The Digital Strategy and Digital Budget Conundrum
The obvious conclusion is that there can’t be a digital strategy without a DEDICATED digital budget and conversely, how can a digital budget be estimated without a digital strategy?

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Let’s pull back from the philosophical to the practical for a moment.  Those who are in a position where they are developing strategy are usually aware of the budget availability and limitations of the organization.   The assumption is that you’ll know if your digital budget is more likely to be a bread basket or a bread truck or a bread factory or a national chain of bread factories with fleets of bread trucks.

There is a great likelihood that your Medicare marketing organization has forayed into the digital marketing game in some way by now, which means that your starting point isn’t at zero, which is a good thing.  Perhaps your organization has experimented with search, and maybe with some display or even with retargeting; and if so, you have some lessons learned, some benchmarks to reference and have been able to convince those holding the purse strings that digital experimentation must take place.

Based on what your organization has tolerated for digital marketing experimentation and what you estimate to be an acceptable budget range for digital marketing is a good starting place for determining a budget range for digital.  When building the actual strategy, a more detailed view of what you will need to spend based on benchmarks and educated estimates will allow honing of the budget to a more realistic number.

Some mistakenly view digital marketing as advertising on digital media channels.   While it is true that digital channels are utilized to advertise, creating a digital strategy is usually tasked to marketing agencies that develop strategy and either have a media department or utilize a media agency to place the media.   Building a digital strategy requires knowledge of the market, the target, direct response marketing, brand marketing, digital advertising, social media marketing and advertising and marketing strategy.

Creating a digital strategy framed within a business case which proves a positive ROI on an estimated budget that can be used to obtain funding can be challenging.

Throughout the Summer of ’16, various types of content will be produced to tell you the story of “Medicare Marketing in Our Digital World.

The purpose of this work is to provide a 30,000 foot view for Medicare marketing CMO’s and other Medicare marketing leaders.

In the next installment I discuss 50 important questions that must be asked and answered prior to developing a Digital Medicare Marketing Strategy.

Mobile Apps Tap Top Spot While TV Naps

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While some have predicted that this day would come, many never believed that it would.  According to Flurry Insights Blog, the prediction that mobile apps would overtake television in our daily viewing time in the United States now rings true.

“For the first time ever, time spent inside mobile applications by the average US consumer has exceeded that of TV” reports Flurry in a report published last month.

The report goes on to say that “the average US consumer is spending 198 minutes per day inside apps compared to 168 minutes on TV.”

Remember, that time spent inside of mobile applications has overtaken time spent watching television.  When you consider how much time Americans are spending on mobile devices in total; an earlier Flurry article disclosed that “in Q2 of 2015, American consumers spent, on average, 3 hours and 40 minutes per day on their mobile devices.  In just six short months since Q4 2014, the average time American consumers spend on their phones each day increased by 43 minutes.”

Americans now spend 220 minutes with their eyeballs fixed on their mobile devices compared to 168 minutes where their eyeballs are fixed on television.  When you consider that the average American is spending a total of nearly 6.5 hours per day on both mobile devices and watching television, you begin to understand that as marketers, our addressable audience is offering us an incredible window of opportunity in which to engage them.

This opportunity that is presented is also in fact, a double edged sword.

How many marketing messages is the average person exposed to in one day?  The answer to that question is also riddled with controversy as the debate regarding the answer is still taking place today.  A 2007 N.Y. Times article “Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad” cites a study by Yankelovich, a market research firm that “estimates that a person living in a city 30 years ago saw up to 2,000 ad messages a day, compared with up to 5,000 today. About half the 4,110 people surveyed last spring by Yankelovich said they thought marketing and advertising today was out of control.”

We also have to consider that this article was written before the advent and proliferation of programmatic media buying and retargeting, which may not increase the number of messages seen, but certainly increases the frequency of specific messages seen based on algorithmic strategies.

How then, can we as marketers craft messages that are compelling and relevant to our audience, that will somehow stand out and apart from the sea of messages that each of us are exposed to?   And, where and how within those 6.5 hours of mobile usage and television viewing are we likely to break through the clutter and win the attention, and consideration of our message deluged audience?

Perhaps it’s not Apps or TV, maybe it’s TV through Apps

Apple CEO Tim Cook said this during his Keynote: “We believe the future of television is apps.  When you experience TV in this way through an app, you realize how much better it can be. You can search for what you want, you can interact with it where and when you want.”

Netflix is an early adopter of the Television through Apps model, and with the new Apple TV which will have its own App Store, and the rest of the set top box competitors vying for market share, there is most likely a new “New Media” based on interactive engagement with both mobile and Smart TV apps on the not-to-distant horizon.

“By 2016 there will be 2 Billion Smart Phones worldwide” according to eMarketer.

How many Apps will there be?  One can only guess.  As modern marketers, we’ll be considering and contemplating how and when and where to reach those people with our messages that will be relevantly compelling and will break through the clutter to stand out from the crowd.

And, in case you hadn’t noticed, at the exact time of posting this there are 69 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes, 29 seconds until 2016 arrives.  Which isn’t a lot of time, so let’s start now!