3 Marketing Programs to Kickstart Summer

Too early to talk Q3? Nope.

For many companies, Q3 is slow. Summer vacay is in full swing, and those of us back in the office are itching to pack it in early. And Europe? Literally the entire continent is eating gelato at the seaside until mid-August.

Yes, it’s summertime and the livin is easy (as Gershwin wrote and Billie Holiday turned into magic—you really should listen right here). It’s everyone’s favorite season but Q3 can be the toughest time of year for B2B. So why not plan ahead and take advantage of the lull?

Here’s three ideas to kick start your Q3 plan (or recharge marketing any time of the year).

1. The Summer of the Sprint

For those familiar with agile project management, scrums and sprints are a big deal. While the marketing team isn’t responsible for product development, which is usually the context for agile, you can still apply the idea to marketing.

Pick three sprint themes to tackle this summer. Maybe your customer onboarding needs a refresher, or nurture emails that have been running on autopilot need some love, or you’ve been meaning to connect with new influencers to expand your reach but haven’t had the time.

No matter what you have going on, I’m pretty sure you can find a few projects that dropped off the radar, and those will be your sprints. From there, it’s all about planning and execution.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how a sprint runs:

  1. Identify sprint theme
  2. Pinpoint goals and scope the work
  3. Select team members and responsibilities
  4. Schedule kickoff meeting and daily scrum
  5. Go
  6. Meet at the end for a project review
  7. Move on to the next sprint

Week-long sprints are great because they’re so fast. On Monday you kickoff, and by Friday you’ve achieved something. The momentum never has time to wane, and before you know it, you’re on to the next thing. If you have a bigger project, try two or three-week sprints.

By the end of the summer, the team will feel great about crushing a few big projects and you’ll have results to show for it.

2. The Summer of A/B Love

You only need to attend one conference a year to feel cosmically bad about the A/B tests you’re not running.

When it comes to email marketing, web presence, messaging, and pretty much everything else we do, A/B testing is the one thing we should be doing, yet tends to get kicked to the curb. A shame, since A/B testing can actually help identify valuable insights that can’t be found by other means.

Build a few important A/B tests into your Q3 plan. If that doesn’t sound like fun, divide into Team A and Team B and see who wins.

If you can find a way to gamify the tests, you’ll get the whole team writing better copy, tightening up messaging, and re-imagining landing pages for better conversion.

Regardless of what you’re testing this summer, take the time to do it right. Also take the time to listen to this podcast, where two wicked smart economists discuss data and causation.

And speaking of gamification, don’t forget to pick a nice outdoor patio for happy hour to celebrate the winning team!

3. The Summer of Trying Something New

Even if summer isn’t a slow time for your organization, it’s a great time to kick the tires on a new tool or platform. If you wait to start assessing vendors and doing demos until Q4, it could be too late to sign a deal and get up and running in time for the new year.

So think about the tools and initiatives you’ve been meaning to explore and get into it.

Here are a few solutions we love:

Engagio

Pretty sure we might have hit maximum overload on ABM about four months ago, but while many are familiar with the concept, most are far from implementing it or understanding how to measure ABM success.

Over the past few years, digital and inbound have matured and we’ve learned a few lessons. Namely, when you stuff the top of your funnel with folks who downloaded a piece of content, it might take an act of divinity to move those folks through the funnel.

Without exactly the right mix of content, campaigns, and sales outreach, you can forget about decent conversion rates or a healthy funnel.

Or, you can stop thinking solely in terms of leads and start thinking about engaging the right people at the right accounts. This is where ABM comes in, and Engagio is leading the pack. Because ABM requires tight alignment between sales and marketing, Engagio has built a great platform for marketers and an equally great Salesforce widget for your reps to track account activity.

LinkedIn for Lead Gen and Retargeting

Okay so LinkedIn just rolled out native forms. If you run sponsored content programs already, you can now point to a LinkedIn form instead of your own.

I like being an early adopter so I’ve been giving it a try for one of my clients. I’m recommending it here because I’ve seen a boost in conversion: forms are pre-filled with the person’s LinkedIn data, thus removing friction, and the experience is seamless because they’re not leaving LinkedIn and bouncing to your landing page (you could also argue there’s less connection with your brand).

That said, the new lead gen forms are not without bugs (you can’t download leads in Chrome—only works in IE or Firefox), and the UX is not at all intuitive: you need an account manager to walk you through it once or twice.

Another huge offering from LinkedIn is retargeting through Matched Audiences. You can engage key accounts, prospects, and audiences with three new capabilities: website retargeting, account targeting, and contact targeting.

If your database is loaded with contacts who’ve gone cold and email isn’t cutting it, this is an effective way to reach them through targeted ads and content. And for visits to your website that haven’t converted, you’ll expand your reach on LinkedIn, which has the potential to be much more targeted than Google Display.

Plus LinkedIn is up to 500 million members, so.

Sponge

Welp, if I didn’t believe in this product I wouldn’t be working here. Sponge is the only solution that ties planning with performance and analytics, and really helps even the most non-mathy marketer become revenue-focused and quantitative.

After a simple integration with Salesforce, login to Sponge and start playing with revenue targets and model budget scenarios to see marketing’s impact on the bottom line.

Sponge also provides reporting made for demand gen marketers, so you won’t have to rely on Salesforce reports and waiting around for the ops team to get you the data you need. Since Sponge gives you one place for plans, campaigns, and analytics, the whole team will be addicted before you know it.

If you’re a semi-neurotic serial refresher (no judgment here)—tracking campaign performance by the minute, running conversion rates, and contemplating the health and velocity of your funnel—Sponge is your new nerdy best friend.

Rybbon

If you use gift cards or other incentives to drive webinar registrants, survey completion, or any other point of engagement, I bet whatever you’re doing is pretty manual and not easy to track.

Rybbon changes all that. You can order through the Rybbon portal, set up your campaign, grab a token for Marketo, and you’re done. You can track when a gift is redeemed and schedule a sales follow up. The ease of use is one thing, but the lack of risk is also huge: if your allotted giftcards aren’t used, you can return them for a refund or order new gifts in any increment you need.

Try a survey that helps you get a better read on your customers and prospects, then offer the anonymous results in a follow up campaign. It’s a great way to boost engagement and get valuable insights at the same time.

So there you go, a few ideas to rally the team and try new initiatives that can move the needle in meaningful ways. Whether your summers are slow or not, a smart Q3 plan can set you up to crush Q4 and end the year strong.

Should B2B Marketers Even Care About Social?

Social media is a core component of any inbound marketing strategy, but it’s often challenging to draw a straight line from social activity to actual conversions, let alone sales pipeline and revenue. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook have all been very vocal about their products for business as they struggle to monetize their offerings, but do these products actually work for B2B marketers? In this post, we’ll explore some of the most popular social advertising tactics available and offer guidance on how to leverage them to support your demand generation efforts.

Shop Now / Buy Button

The influx of shop now, or buy buttons, to social media sites has seen exponential growth in the past year. Facebook and Twitter have been at the forefront of this movement, but even Pinterest has made its way into the space with their “buyable pins”. These are the sponsored, or company “post”, that show up in your timeline with the option to click on a link and be taken directly to the checkout process for that item.

Essentially the function of this button in social media for B2B marketers and others, is to have a channel to better capture impulse buys from consumers. The target market is individuals who are likely to make a purchase without doing much research. The thought is if you put your product or service in front of them, they are going to buy it.

The Twitter Buy Now button shows up within a tweet next to the image, and the idea is to capitalize on someone’s interest as they’re “browsing” their feed, such that they can actually buy your product without ever having to leave Twitter. Here’s an example from Brit + Co:

B2B Marketers

Facebook Calls to Action works in much the same way, where ads show up directly in your newsfeed. While both platforms enable you to target specific demographics, the information is a lot richer in Facebook, so your ability to hone in on exactly who you want is much greater. Here’s an example of Facebook Calls to Action using their Carousel format, where you can present multiple messaging points or offers that still focus around one CTA.

B2B Marketers

Do they work? The Shop Now / Buy button is a good option for B2C companies selling relatively low cost goods, but it’s less likely they’ll be effective for B2B marketers who’s companies generally have higher priced offerings and/or a longer sales cycle. If your prospect isn’t able to make the mental leap to convert within 30 seconds, this probably isn’t the best option. That said, if you have a fairly visual product and offer a demo or a free trial, I’d be interested to see if this would work even for B2B brands.

Promoted Tweets

The promoted tweet was Twitter’s first foray into paid products for business. The concept is simple – it’s a tweet that you pay to distribute across the Twitter feeds of the users you care about. The call to action is whatever link you include in your tweet, so you’d measure success by the number of clicks, conversions, and follows.

B2B Marketers

Do they work? In my experience, Promoted Tweets rarely work for demand generation. If you’re looking to get more followers and increase brand awareness, and you think a lot of your potential customers are on Twitter, this may be worthwhile, otherwise I’d skip it.

LinkedIn Sponsored Updates & Paid InMails

LinkedIn is clearly the most business-oriented social network, and they offer several different products to advertise your company or product on LinkedIn, including text ads, display ads, sponsored updates, and paid InMails. Sponsored Updates are very similar to Promoted Tweets, in that they’re sponsored posts that show up directly in your newsfeed. You can target based on several different fields, including title, job function, company size, geography, skills, groups, and more. Here’s an example from Hubspot:

B2B Marketers

Do they work? Of all of the tactics listed here, I’ve had the most success with LinkedIn Sponsored Updates. The targeting abilities on LinkedIn are unmatched, enabling you to be very granular in your advertising segments. I have found they work better for ebooks and blog posts vs. trials and demos, but that’s not super surprising. I’ve tried InMails with mixed success. They used to be very expensive, so it was tough to generate a positive ROI. They’ve come down in cost, but I’m still not sure this is where I’d start for B2B marketers. If you do go this route, make sure you’re disciplined in your segmentation, and keep your message short and informal. I’d also recommend asking people to reply to your message vs. going to a form (which will make the message feel more spammy).

Share Buttons

So share buttons have been around forever and instead of you advertising your stuff on LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook, share buttons enable prospects to share your content with their connections. Share buttons are not only a good source of promotion for your product or service, but they also enable you to get a better sense of who your target market is by reviewing who is sharing your content. Share buttons are often used on landing pages, blog posts, and email, like this:

B2B Marketers

B2B Marketers

Do they work? I know a lot of people will say otherwise, and that it doesn’t *hurt* to put social share buttons all over the place, but I’d advise B2B marketers to NOT include them on their landing pages or email newsletter, but DO include them on thank you pages and blog posts. Why? It all goes back to why people share stuff in the first place – to entertain, to impress, and to teach. Someone has to find value in your content before they’ll mark it as entertaining or educational. A conversion is a value signal, so it only makes sense to ask people to share your content after they’ve converted. Check out this example of a webinar thank you page, where the user is asked to invite his colleagues via email and social media. This is a perfect opportunity to use social share because he’s already shown interest in a pretty strong offer, and generally you don’t want to confuse webinar registrants with secondary CTAs like a trial or demo before they actually attend the live event.

B2B Marketers

Social Logins

Social logins enable your prospects to automatically fill in forms with information stored on their social profiles. In theory it increases your conversion rate because even long forms can be completed in one click.

B2B Marketers

Do they work? Results on social logins are mixed. For account registration, I think it’s a no brainer, where you’re trying to lower the bar for a relatively high hurdle (i.e. start using a new product). For white papers and ebooks, I think it’s adding some unnecessary complexity, and actually I’ve seen people use social logins as an excuse to put a LOT of questions on their forms (one of my past client insisted on asking 14 questions just to download a white paper). Having too long of a sign-in form obviously can deter potential clients from finish the process, Hubspot ranks long forms as the fourth strongest reason people don’t finish forms. Standard best practice still applies – ask as few questions as you need to move a prospect to the next step, and not a single one beyond that. From my experience, even if you have social logins built into your forms, visitors can still be overwhelmed by a ton of questions, so it’s best to keep it lean to maximize your conversion rates.

Conclusion

Okay we went through this stuff…while social has traditionally been relegated to brand awareness, there are some promising opportunities for demand generation, particularly on LinkedIn. So now, what other opportunities are there for B2B marketers on social? Share your own tips and lessons learned in the comments.

To learn how social fits into the modern marketing mix, sign up for The Marketing Machine Playbook, an 18-week series for building an integrated marketing system designed for growth.