Ed Marsh

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    Content Marketing for Folks Who Shower AFTER Work

    Posted by Ed Marsh on Apr 11, 2013 6:49:00 AM

    Hipsters of the world unite!

    inbound marketing practitionerWait a minute...they already have.  They teamed up with the programmers, some MBAs and a couple artist types and created an innovative discipline called "content marketing."

    The natural base of customers? The types of companies, products, services and business sectors where they feel most comfortable and intuitively understand the business value and buyer persona.

    It makes sense - you work within your comfort zone. That's often where you're most effective.

    The end result?  
    1. Although hardly ubiquitous, inbound marketing is pretty well recognized and established in areas that were first identified. 
    2. There are huge gaps between Cambridge and Menlo Park and between islands of software and service companies.
    "Fly over country" and manufacturing industries haven't yet embraced the potential of inbound marketing. (I know that there are practitioners - both agency and company - that represent geographic and industry diversity. This isn't an absolute, and some may contest the generalization. But there are indisputably huge gaps.)

    content marketing powerWorkers of the world unite!

    Wait a minute....we've tried that a couple times and it hasn't worked!

    But seriously, there are huge swathes of American industry that are slipping between the content marketing cracks. And in many of these cases they have innovative technologies, quality differentiators and effective solutions to real manufacturing problems.

    Somehow we've allowed a business "digital divide" to develop - between the SaaS, mobile app hip crowd that showers before work, and the metal bending, hydraulics-using manufacturing workers that shower after work.

    This isn't to anyone's benefit. How do we overcome it?

    Digital marketing isn't just for digital business

    There's fault on both sides. The carefully cultivated, slightly crusty, down home folksy rejection of new fangled stuff is endearing (and those of us slaves to email may be envious), but self-defeating.

    Conversely the hyper-caffeinated, buzz word laden, BYOD techy approach tends to dwell in a parallel reality — brilliant, intellectual and creative, but slightly detached from the core.

    industrial content marketingBut there's real power in digital marketing even (or perhaps especially) for industries that may be constrained by self-limiting beliefs.

    So those of us in the content marketing community have both opportunity and obligation. If we can figure out how to distill the benefits of content marketing into a language and presentation that is sensible for traditional industries, there's gold in them hills. (Not to mention over seas and oceans - the international value of inbound marketing is enormous for American industry as well!)  

    And if you believe that American manufacturing can regain its role as the soul of a strong middle class (at least until additive manufacturing/3D printing becomes fully established), then you have an obligation as a practitioner of the inbound marketing discipline to help make it accessible.

    Let's take responsibility as a group to figure out how to distill the amazing value of content marketing to a heartland audience. Let's have the discussion. We can all benefit regardless of when we shower!

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    Topics: inbound marketing, content marketing, b2b marketing, industrial marketing, small business

    Marketing for customers in all the wrong places (or not the right ones)

    Posted by Ed Marsh on Mar 11, 2013 7:34:00 AM

    Creatures of Habit...or convenience

    inbound marketing personasEvery business knows who their customers are, right?  After all, that's about as basic as it gets. But how often is that knowledge of customers predicted on open minded, robust analysis? Not often. Rather it's typically an extrapolation based on gut feeling impressions of how it's always been.

    Is that horrible? Not really - after all that's what most companies do. But compared to what "could be", it's analogous to the proverbial drunk looking for his car keys under the streetlight - not because he lost them there, but because that's where the light is.

    Grab a flashlight!

    So if we're going to peer into corners beyond the arc of our neighborhood streetlight looking for prospects, where should we start?
    1. Prospects you should know about...but don't
    2. Prospects you couldn't possibly know about
    3. Prospects that everyone else in the world knows about but you pretend don't exist

    First, grab the sales team, CSRs, and anyone else who is customer facing during the sales process. Map out all the interactions from leads through delivery and subsequent support to identify what topics, roles, pains, decision points and themes emerge. Be careful about discounting outliers as aberrations - this may well be the data you seek!

    With the perspective you generate you now have the data to map personas, value and buying process against actual experience rather than just lore. Additionally you'll identify key gaps. For instance, if financial benefits are a key part of your value (e.g. not just lower cost but a legitimate reduction in WiP inventory due to a process improvement - and resulting reduction in working capital and manufacturing floor space requirements), but nowhere in your personas, influencers or buying process are you helping the buyer extrapolate the corporate financial implications, you have a gap to fill and an opportunity.

    Remember that most folks have a lens through which they see this topic:

    • The type of buyer personality with which they are comfortable
    • The type of industry where they have succeeded
    • The value that they find most compelling based on their personal biases, etc.  

    And of course the inverse of each as well. Don't allow individual biases to limit the range (really hard in small companies where the owner is the primary sales driver, where the company is formed around his/her biases, and where the assumption is that every company has the same priorities and buys the same way as them).

    Second, get your R&D and marketing folks together. (Note - don't try this at home.  Seriously. Get some sort of experienced corporate facilitator to help plan and execute this!)  If done clumsily this could be a colossal waste of time. However, managed artfully, this will let you continuously troll for opportunities by creating conceptual content that highlights core technology capabilities. This will allow buyers searching for component solutions to stumble across your company. This is precisely how GE intends to identify many of their new market opportunities.  

    Put simply, you can't possibly anticipate the various serendipitous applications for your technology, and therefore can't market to the folks who might need it. Naturally you can't create content for every possible situation. But in parallel to your focused, persona based content you can create some that is more focused on the technology (NOT the old product crap of GB of RAM, RPMs, HP, mm, torque, ANSI, etc.) in general ways that will allow R&D folks in other businesses to identify core capability that they need to support their developments.

    international inbound marketingThird, accept that customers are defined by their needs and budget NOT BY THEIR PASSPORT (or time zone, primary currency, language or continent)!  From a simple perspective, your distance from Toronto, Mexico City or London is likely less than between many pairs of American cities between which trade is reflexive. But more importantly many buyers in many corners of the globe fit your ideal prospect criteria. With shrinking incomes, low to negative GDP and policy uncertainty that constrains investment here in the US, why not take the easy route? If you can shift your mindset you'll find you have a global market with areas that you can enter relatively easily where "Made in America" is craved.

    If you're already inbound marketing, you already have a base of leads and data for initial market opportunity analysis. Eventually as you select focus markets you'll create parallel market specific personas, content and even locally hosted microsites with the relevant TLD - but those are refinements for later and not necessary for initial success.

    And as a bonus?  What about paying 50% lower tax on the profits from those sales?

    But what do personas really represent?

    buyer personasIndulge me while I make an awkward segué into a related topic.  

    I've become increasingly convinced that personas are the simplest way to evaluate potential clients and prospective inbound marketing practitioners for suitability.  What do I mean?

    It's pretty simple. Real effectiveness at inbound marketing requires: 
    • Lateralized cognition - artistic and logical cognitive predilections must be balanced
    • Broad business understanding - empathy (and ideally experience) with different functions and priorities across business
    • System perspective - intuitively understanding how all the pieces must be interwoven because omitting even one damages the program
    More than any other step of the program, the exploration and development of personas provides a handy crucible to assess these required attributes. Someone who approaches the persona step with a flat, check the box, simple mentality will never fully embrace the system of inbound marketing.

    You can gauge quickly whether a potential client grasps the concept and engages with you in the persona process, or simply parrots back the routine and reflexive. If it's the latter, I would contend that you will always be justifying your program rather than collaborating.  

    Similarly while you may focus on hiring "position players" such as an SEO expert, you can't afford to be the integrator between their silo efforts and the comprehensive program. An SEO expert that doesn't embrace the persona process, and push aggressively to be involved and demonstrate awareness and interest in the related aspects, will likely not be able to grow with the organization. Further, their work won't manifest the nuanced, systemic perspective that ultimately distinguishes average from exceptional. It's far more critical that role players and technical specialists understand how their piece fits into the larger context than for you to understand the detail of their specialty - beyond adequate knowledge to manage effectively.

    Maybe the question is...can someone who has never owned and run a business, is uncomfortable with systems and strategy, nor achieved noteworthy sales mastery, really create personas much less drive an effective inbound marketing program? Answers? Debate? Skepticism? Incredulity? Vitriol?  (On second thought, hold the vitriol, but let's have some discussion.)

    About the Author: Ed Marsh is co-founder of Consilium Global Business Advisors, an international marketing consulting agency focused on developing strategic global business development and channel programs.
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    Topics: b2b marketing, industrial marketing, international inbound marketing, personas

    The Inbound Marketing Amoeba - Blurring Departmental Lines

    Posted by Ed Marsh on Feb 12, 2013 7:09:00 AM

    The Inbound Marketing Panacea

    "Content marketing is so freakin' awesome it will actually take your company over for you and run it better than you can!" 

    About tired of that sort of inane promotion? I am.

    Most folks reading this have bought into the value of inbound marketing. It really is a remarkable evolution in the practice of marketing.  It has transformative functional and financial benefits. And the evolution it is forcing has created substantial changes and opportunities in organizations - not only within the marketing orb.  

    While sales isn't going away, it has to adapt. And while companies would be crazy to forgo their hard won domestic business, they now have amazing global opportunities created through their inbound marketing.

    But it doesn't fundamentally change your business model and it doesn't solve half the problems some claim. But what if.......

    What if Inbound Marketing could support product marketing and R&D?

    inbound marketing research and developmentSound nuts? Well that's precisely what Beth Comstock, GE's CMO says they are intent on doing.   In a recent interview with Think with Google she spoke of the marketer's role in "connecting the dots" and said "When you're in this business, you see a lot of things, marketers are in a great position to notice if something's happening in an industry."

    Comstock added "Marketing is now about creating and developing new markets; not just identifying opportunities but also making them happen."

    So you don't have the staff of 5,000 marketers that she has at her disposal - but you do have an incredible equalizing tool. The power of your content.

    Pinpoints of light

    I guarantee there are applications that you've never considered. That's one of the benefits of global sales that we often discuss. Put your product in a different environment and it's amazing to observe the new uses which people will naturally discover.

    And that's with your product in its standard form.  But beyond that, somewhere out there are 5, 25 maybe hundreds of enterprising, entrepreneurial folks who are discouraged — they're slaving over products they have invented and are refining but they can't get them quite right. They're missing the secret sauce of your enabling technology.  

    And even with an army of 5,000 you're not going to find them.  So you have a choice — go about your business every day ignorant of the opportunities which you're foregoing, or figure out how to leverage the tools that content and inbound marketing provide.

    Will this approach double your company with a deluge of license or resale revenue? Probably not. But wouldn't some be awesome? Revenue without the operational hassles? And are there caveats? Sure. There is your IP to protect — you're not going to lay it all out in your content.

    But if you start to incorporate pieces into your editorial calendar (posts about related technologies, participation in different LinkedIn groups, webinars about how your technology has enabled others, etc.) all optimized for an appropriate category of search terms, you'll find an interesting crop of developmental leads to harvest.

    The key is to see content, your content promotion and inbound marketing efforts in the larger context. It should be simply being more efficient at finding more of the same — it's about being easy to be found by the folks who should find you, whether you know them or not.

    And be open to discussing new applications, uses and opportunities. Don't just reflexively reply "that's not what we do."

    About the Author: Ed Marsh is co-founder of Consilium Global Business Advisors, an international marketing consulting agency focused on developing strategic global business development and channel programs.
    Image from Los Alamos National Labs.

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    Topics: marketing assessment, product marketing, inbound marketing, marketing strategy

    Why Your Inbound Marketing Must Be Global—Even If Your Biz Isn't

    Posted by Ed Marsh on Jan 12, 2013 7:37:00 AM

    The threat from outside and the opportunity within

    The beauty of inbound marketing is that it's simple. Sure, there are fine points and best practices. But its power as a market equalizer is that any company can do it - and do it well.  Not all do, of course, and conversely a few do it brilliantly.  

    Although simple, it's not easy. It takes a firm senior executive strategic commitment because it demands a lot of work and patience. And often companies are hesitant to undertake too many simultaneous strategic initiatives. That's sensible. But if the "Devil is in the details," then the risk/reward is in selecting the one or two concurrent foci.

    Globalization of your business and of your inbound marketing specifically, should be on that short list.

    Two parallel trends provide compelling justification for that strategic focus.

    First is the threat from outside. China is awakening to the compelling opportunity offered by inbound marketing.  

    Second is the demographic reality of domestic US consumer evolution. One of every 2 babies born in the US now is Latino. Marketing to them requires nuanced approaches and content which will differ from your baseline.

    The inbound threat

    global business international inbound marketingThe Chinese are coming...will you be ready this time? Having lost much of the low-cost manufacturing advantage upon which they built their amazing decade of export growth, Chinese companies are awakening to the need and opportunity to market effectively to US consumers.  

    Sure, like most innovation evolutions, the initial quality will be low and execution will be clumsy. But eventually they will learn to excel. And other developing markets will follow suit. Soon your prospects will be awash in content from global sources. Competition will intensify.

    You've got the opportunity to solidify your "first mover" advantage, though, with the focused, immediate and ongoing application of inbound marketing best practices. The key is to stop dabbling and start executing! (Download PR Newswire's report in English or Chinese here.)

    Can you even talk to 50% of your market?

    latino inbound marketingThe statistics are clear. Half of the babies born in the US today are Latino. And while the future population distribution will reflect that trend, even today Latinos represent a substantial body of consumption clout. (We love for you to take our quick survey on your experience/thoughts regarding Latino content marketing.)  

    Now the concept of Latino Marketing isn't novel. A few thought leaders (mostly consumer packaged goods) companies have developed marketing for Hispanic communities. But it is still quite early, and the efforts are lacking the nuance required for success.

    The reality is, there is no monolithic "Latino" community. Consumers with different dialects (not to mention different languages - Spanish vs. Portuguese), vastly different cultures and traditions, biases and prejudices and consumption habits are often lumped into a single group.

    But understanding how to market to the statistically important and distinct groups requires an intimacy and breadth of cultural knowledge that is absent in most American companies. And if the recent article in Portada is correct, "Hispanic Content Marketing (may be) set to explode." will the explosion damage or propel your efforts?

    I would contend that the best, and perhaps only way you can develop the expertise imperative for successful domestic growth in the coming decades is actually to begin to market and sell throughout Latin America. At Consilium we believe that one of the most underappreciated benefits of exporting is the  opportunity to learn lessons to be applied to your domestic market. And this is a perfect example.

    The global opportunity is even bigger

    If you have any substantive inbound marketing today you are accustomed to receiving a large number of international leads. Experience tells me that while you covet domestic leads, scoring them, nurturing them and hopefully converting them, you probably simply ignore the international leads.

    What a shame! In an environment of very slow domestic growth, opportunities in developing markets are particularly compelling. Even with your existing program you'll start to identify pockets of compelling opportunity.  Don't waste those leads! Find someone with real international sales and global business development expertise that can help you manage global growth while mitigating risks and maximizing the potential.

    But while you're at it, maybe you should step up into full fledged international inbound marketing - elevate your domestic game to embrace global opportunities!

    And inbound marketing agencies have an opportunity.  Work dilligently with your clients to position their inbound marketing and help them understand the competitive advantage, and defense bulwark that simultaneously creates.  And then work with them to develop the nuanced and localized multilingual & cultural content required to cement their success domestically - not just with some of their prospects, but with all.


    About the Author: Ed Marsh is co-founder of Consilium Global Business Advisors, an international marketing consulting agency focused on developing strategic global business development and channel programs.

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    Topics: multicultural marketing, latino marketing, inbound marketing, international inbound marketing

    Great Inbound Marketing - The Silo Busting Imperative

    Posted by Ed Marsh on Dec 10, 2012 7:30:00 AM

    "Drop your business card in our fishbowl for a chance to win an iPad"

    b2b marketingHave you seen one of those signs at a trade show recently? I can't think of any more explicit manifestation of what's so completely sideways in B2B Sales & Marketing. I mean seriously.

    But let's back up. There once was a time when the T-Rex of the biz dev world was the rainmaker direct sales pro. Strutting his/her stuff with a massive rolodex and easy demeanor they knew that everyone else knew they were the force that sustained a business. And marketing....marketing was the red-headed kid brother that was tolerated, every once in a while got picked for a team of pickup ball, and was expected to offer quiet admiration most of the time. In other words marketing had the easy task of generating leads - leads which then the big dawgs would massage and either dismiss or convert to revenue.

    And in that world, B2B buying processes relied on the direct sales folks. This reliance was so ingrained in the system that normally direct sales became involved in the buying process when it was less than 30% complete. So T-Rex had plenty of opportunity to thrash its tail and gnash its teeth - controlling much of the dynamic of the B2B purchase because ultimately they controlled the required information on solutions.

    Meteor strike or the internet?

    But along the way T-Rex became extinct. Everyone realizes that except for those direct sales folks who still think they are the T-Rexes of the business world...and some traditional business owners who haven't looked up from running their companies.

    inbound marketingToday direct sales is an afterthought. The coveted information which they used to control is now available anytime, anywhere. Buyers no longer need them, and therefore (surprise here for anyone?) they'd rather not deal with them. The typical B2B purchasing process now doesn't involve direct sales until it is more than 70% complete. The folks at Square2Marketing have distilled this evolution down into a simple graphic.

    The glory days of direct sales are over.

    So how do we sell now?

    Obviously this evolution begs this critical question. If you can't send your warriors forth to battle for sales (now they may be negotiating terms of transactions based on decisions made before they were even aware of the project) then you must sell using other methods.

    The answer lies in how buyers buy...and it's all about the web. 92% of all B2B purchases begin with an internet search. It stands to reason, therefore, that the fundamental objective of your marketing must be to present as compelling a presence as possible when folks search for solutions which you can provide.

    But more than that, you must replicate the direct sales engagement virtually. Your on-line presence must fulfill all the functions your direct sales T-Rex did in the past. Building credibility, forming bonds of trust, educating prospects on your solutions, distinguishing your offering from competitors', supporting justification analysis and preempting concerns and hesitation must all now be largely achieved through a virtual dialog with prospects.

    There's an app for that!

    The good news is that you someone's already thought through this for you. Inbound marketing is the solution that you haven't hear of but have been desperately seeking.

    The premise of inbound marketing is simple. Market and sell to folks they way they want to buy. The execution (at least if you are interested in doing it right for maximum effect) is complex - not because of any particularly complex element but because success takes an artfully integrated effort across a multitude of tools, disciplines and channels.

    The easy, hard and 'I'm not sure you're up for it' steps

    Deciding to change is easy. And when your banker or accountant keeps banging on you about slowing growth you'll be thrilled to have an answer. 

    Implementing the change is much harder. Again, not because any piece is terribly complicated, but because there are many moving pieces and lots of work to be done.

    But the real impediment? The one I'm not sure you can overcome? Your departmental structure and mindset are so ossified into Sales and Marketing silos that I am not convinced you can change. But now that marketing must do most of the selling and controls 70% of the buying process, you don't have a choice.

    Are you up to it?

    Learn more about the evolving roles of Sales and Marketing.

    About the Author: Ed Marsh is co-founder of Consilium Global Business Advisors, an international marketing consulting agency focused on developing strategic global business development and channel programs.
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    Topics: small business marketing, thought leadership, small business internet marketing, b2b lead generation

    Our B2B Marketing is solid - we already do all that "content" stuff

    Posted by Ed Marsh on Nov 26, 2012 7:30:00 AM

    The Paradox of Content Marketing Success

    Content marketing is gaining traction.  

    In practice that is unalloyed great news for B2B marketers. Those who embrace best practices and diligently craft a fabric woven on a warp of amazing content will generate really remarkable results.

    But as a buzzword it has potentially disastrous potential. Well meaning but ignorant interpretations abound and self-anointed experts are being birthed at an alarming rate.

    Each "expert" who fails to effectively structure an inbound marketing program jeopardizes the future viability of a company which will move forward to compete in increasingly competitive markets at a distinct disadvantage. And in each case that will be tragic because the desire was there, but opportunity will have been squandered through poor execution.

    Collectively the risk is even greater. A small number of companies that have realized the potential of well crafted inbound marketing will proselytize regarding the benefits of inbound marketing. But a much larger group that casually implemented a poorly conceived or incomplete program, and received commensurate returns, will join in a chorus of frustration - discounting the potential for B2B marketing success.

    "We're already doing that"

    If you sell to businesses you've certainly heard this before. And you've probably thought to yourself. "No way. You don't even have a clue what I'm talking about."

    Now there are two possibilities in that situation. The prospect may be right. Perhaps they're doing something that is similar to what you propose, in a way that is good enough for them. Alternatively, you could be right. They may be just blowing you off, or perhaps they think they are leveraging a similar solution to good effect without really understanding the nuance or even the foundational principles of the concept.  

    So assuming you have at least adequate sales skills, and still can't overcome the myopic intransigence of the prospect, what's at play?

    If you're selling to huge companies you could simply be bumping into junior execs or administrators who validate the "Peter Principle" or are protecting their turf. But if you're speaking to senior executives in SMBs, you're probably caught in a sensitivity trap!

    Extroverts, sensitivity and recognition of threats

    What we're really talking about here is a threat. In the case of a company adopting a comprehensive, strategically sound inbound marketing program the threat to which they would respond would be one of diminished marketing effectiveness, stagnating sales and enterprise decay.

    But what if......the sort of person most likely to boldly start, grow and manage a business is the sort least likely to intuit or even account for subtle and uncertain threats? That's precisely one of the hypothesis of Susan Cain's (@susancain) book Quiet. Controversial? Certainly. Conclusive? Perhaps not. Make sense based on personal experience? Probably. The hard charging business founder who has launched despite the horrific odds and persevered through situations which would have brought others to their knees simply can't afford to worry about ghosts behind trees. And therefore they overlook potential legitimate threats too, and discount seemingly insignificant differences in approaches to problems.

    Inbound marketing's "Achiles' Heel"

    Therein lies the biggest risk to inbound marketing success. When executed properly the payoff in B2B marketing success is huge. But if it's not done right, the payoff is negligible. And too many extroverted, 'insensitive' (don't get pissed off, read the book instead to understand) types can point to a couple activities (maybe occasional press releases published on a website under the title of 'blog', or a company LinkedIn page or Twitter handle) and dismissively assert "We already do that."

    But you can be different! Seriously! Don't let your hard charging business blinders obscure the seemingly minor details that are critically important. In inbound marketing "the Devil (really) is in the details." 

    And a good place to start is with an easy to digest overview of how your business sales and marketing environment is evolving. Understanding where we came from, where we are and where we're going is critical to mapping the route to success. And a step by step strategy goes a long way toward demystifying something that is far more complicated than you imagined.

    So change your tune! Instead of "We already do that" try responding with "We have to do that!" and embrace the potential of B2B marketing success.

    About the Author: Ed Marsh is co-founder of Consilium Global Business Advisors, an international marketing consulting agency focused on developing strategic global business development and channel programs.
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    Topics: small business marketing, inbound marketing, content marketing, b2b lead generation

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