Day 2 of BIMS Encourages External AND Internal Questions

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"Eighty percent of B2B buyers expect ongoing content. But unless we're telling them how to get the most out of that content..." Matt Bailey, best-selling author on marketing and founder of SiteLogic, didn't really have to finish that thought from his Tuesday morning keynote.

One of the themes of this 300-plus attendee, third annual Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) in Fort Lauderdale this week is that having all kinds of good stuff is not enough if customers don't know what to do with it—or don't even know about it

We heard it Monday with Harvard Business Publishing telling us about their very successful decision to "unearth" their archives and tell people where it is and how to use it. Even further, a weekly, friendly-toned editor's letter has helped to promote their current content. We heard it again Tuesday from Bailey and others. (Frankly, I see it in my hotel room with a coffeemaker "hidden" in a drawer and a beautiful shower that you have to guess how to use.)

Bailey played the role of customer. "How do I implement this? How do I get the most out of my engagement?" he asked. "Customers want a consistent experience. They want to talk to people." If they have a question for you, don't just give an answer but follow that up with a question of your own that delves deeper into what they need.

Ask better questions, he urged. "If you don't ask the right questions, how will you know if you have their solution? Try this sometime: Have a conversation [with a friend or colleague] and whoever talks the least, wins. Or he who talks the most loses."

In a wonderful session on collaborative marketing, Amanda Beasley, director of marketing for International Risk Management Institute, also spoke about asking customers questions, but in a different way. They had been doing focus groups and interacting some with customers, but they weren't doing enough collaboration internally. So she scheduled meetings with colleagues in other departments, and the payoff has been eye-opening.

"I spoke with our sales and client services people," Beasley said. "I told them I'm putting together marketing copy and asked, 'How are you talking to customers about [our] products?' They told me, 'This doesn't matter but this does. And if you're talking to this [customer], this matters.'

"The client services director and I have now formed a team, the Inbound Leads team. [Previously,] webinar customers might not have been getting into our CRM, so there was no communications afterward. We've now created a marketing plan for those people. We're engaging with them further on the topics that they care about."

After similar conversations with the research analysts—"They lit up when I spoke with them; I never saw this side of them," Beasley said—and editorial, they built a new marketing plan. "It was totally different from what our sales team had been using. Even the sales director was on board with this new package."

The results have been very positive, Beasley said. "Having those meetings will show [colleagues] you care about what they do." Externally, she added that, "If you have a customer who buys one product and you're not asking them questions [about other products] then you're not understanding."

Bailey continued on the theme. "The customer wants what they want when they want it and how they want it. Why did someone download this content? What can we learn from that? They are initiating a conversation with you. If you respond by sending the monthly newsletter, that's a not a conversation... If you're not doing a welcome series, then you're losing money. People respond to it." He said a thank you series should be developed as well.  

Bailey also emphasized the importance of customer referrals. He said that those leads close at a 14.7% rate, much higher than anything else. The average lead takes 84 days to conversion, a referral takes 18 days. "Are you developing referrals? Bailey asked. This is a place where social media can work for you. "The purpose of social media is to brag about yourself," he said. Give your customers the opportunity to do that. "Make it all about them."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…