I want to welcome everybody to today’s Podcast. Today’s guest is Ruth Stevens. A quick overview about Ruth – she is a consultant on customer acquisition and retention, she been named one of the hundred most influential people in business marketing by Crain’s a B2B magazine, and one of twenty women to watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She is a guest Blogger at Biznology, AdAge, HBR.org and she has several books published with her most recent being B2B Data Driven Marketing Sources, Uses and Results.
So I wanted to welcome Ruth and thank you very much for joining us Ruth.
Great Thank You Dan!
So obviously very very impressive background. Maybe if you could just give the audience an overview of what got you – how did you get into Marketing? What got you interested in this field?
Oh yea, well I actually got into it through just natural instinct. I was working in a publishing company in Tokyo editing books and acquiring manuscripts and I really enjoyed that, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how that could take my books to market or to find their audiences. So when I returned from Japan and went to Columbia Business School, I had two job offers after graduating from Columbia, one was first in the book business because I was really interested in it, one was a marketing job at “Book of the Month Club” a division of Time Warner and the other was a finance job at John Wiley in their International Division. Both of these were really interesting jobs for me; but some body wisely advised me that in choosing between the two, I should pick the job that was “in the line” versus the “staff” – you’re familiar with that military distinction.
The line being where revenue and profit comes from either from products or customers, and the staff being well the support function like HR, finance and so forth. So I went for the “line” job and I just loved it from the first day and I fit in. Direct Marketing and data driven marketing ever since. Thanks for asking.
Interesting backstory. I am always curious about how folks get into marketing.
Since you started marketing is changing – maybe quicker than ever! There was a recent Adobe study of Marketers and 76%, and I was floored by this number, think that marketing has changed more in the past two years than in the previous fifty. Which you know really raised my eyebrows. So I want to get your take on – do you agree with this general sentiment – is marketing changing really that rapidly and maybe where do you see this heading? Can it keep up in this pace?
Well yea that last question, I don’t know, but the question about whether it changed more in the past two years than the previous fifty, I do have an opinion which is that it is really the last ten or fifteen years versus the last two at least when we talk about B2B Marketing which is where you and I both focus. To me the arrival of the Internet and the wide acceptance and availability of the internet as a communication and commerce tool changed everything about business fine behavior and we Marketers are just scratching the surface in how to leverage that tool to make it easier for us to find prospects and for business buyers to solve their problems by coming and finding our solutions. So that’s the context that I put the change in. Now the question of the pace of change and whether we can keep up, I think the answer is, of course we can keep up…that’s what we do. But it means that Marketers need to be flexible, to be curious, to always be keeping their ear to the ground about what their peers are doing and finding to be successful in adapting and adopting new techniques so that’s our challenge. We certainly can’t rest on our laurels or apply the tactical activities that we used twenty years ago in today’s market certainly. Especially on the consumer side you might say as TV advertising has been threatened almost to the death by digital channels that’s certainly a lesson to us in B2B.
So following that your train of thought so if a new marketing graduate came to you and said, “Hey, I got this new marketing job B2B space can you give me some advise” what maybe would be the first couple of things you would recommend this person do or focus on in their first 90 days or so on the job.
Gee that’s a great question. The first would definitely be on digital channel. But we also have to sit back a bit, or walk back a bit, and make sure that we done the research needed to understand the needs in the market place and how we can basically kill our competitors.
Win the battle of against our competitors so that means market research or if not, formal research projects at least developing a rich understanding of the needs of various market segments and developing a value proposition to present to the market to explain to them why they should be buying from us instead of the bad guys down the street. So that’s sort of Marketing 101 that’s never going to go away irrespective of whatever tools are coming down the pike. So the first 90 days on any job I would say you need to go understand your market. The second thing I would advise is that you need to understand their buying process – especially in the world of B2B. The buying process is getting more complicated, there are more people involved, it’s slower and the upside is that we can get richer insights into it than ever before using so called intense data and other buying signals that we can see online. So there are some really some exciting new developments but it is all driven by our desire to influence the buying process in our favor and these wonderful new tools that are available to us online help us achieve that objective faster and more cheaply than ever before. So those are the two areas that I would say a new marketer should be focusing on.
Excellent. I want to touch on a subject that’s very near and dear to your heart is direct marketing. So in the B2B space, at least in my experience, now the popular term is “account based marketing” but direct marketing / account based marketing those have existed that it feels like for many many years and that’s one area that you specialize in. Maybe if your can expand on. What are some areas that you see companies struggling with most when it comes to developing an account based marketing approach or program. What are some areas that you see companies struggling most in…maybe you can touch upon it.
Yea…Well I think I either need to get some clarification or challenge you, Dan, a little bit because I do not see ABM account based marketing and direct marketing as the same thing at all. Let me back up and mention that the way I define direct marketing is a combination of using data for targeting an audience understanding and then crafting direct response communication to reach out and motivate that target audience to raise their hands and response to you in some way. Whether its kind to turn them into a sales lead or try to get them to meet us at our booth at a trade show, or come to our webinar or whatever is the response we are looking for. And those tools have been part of the B2B Marketing Tool Kit forever whether they were called direct marketing or not or direct response communication or not; but to your question about how they can be used successfully, I am still amazed at how often I see B2B marketing communications that are not following the fundamental principles of direct response communication which have been written about, taught in schools and are in zillion of books on the subject to help people understand the principles but I am just amazed that I am still not seeing them followed correctly. So for example, you could see a digital banner ad with no offer in it, or with a call to action that’s simply buried. You wonder, “wait a minute in digital banner ads they are certainly going to be counting their responses as their success metric. If they just added an offer they could triple their response rates…what’s going on here.” So it still makes me scratch my head.
Now ABM on the other hand, not on the other hand, it too is all that’s new again in principle because sales people have always gone to market at the account level. You know. A sales person has a territory of accounts that he or she is responsible for. So that’s supporting that effort with marketing help is really the nature of ABM. What I think is so exciting about the renewed interest in ABM is that it helps to bridge the yawning gap between sales culture and marketing culture in B2B companies and when marketing is given the mission of helping sales penetrate and service an account more effectively, then sales and marketing really pull together and are on the same page and going for the same goals in a way that we haven’t seen in traditional funnel- oriented lead generation world, so I think it is a brilliant new way to solve that long time problem of animosity and misunderstanding between sales and market.
While that’s a great point – never really considered it that’s a really interesting take on it. Thank you. And so you know, we are winding down here the Podcast but wanted to ask you one last question.
Any marketing technology tools that you could recommend that maybe you’re using or you heard of other B2B marketers use that you want to recommend to our audience for them to check out.
Yea…a couple. I think there are some several new exciting developments relating to LinkedIn. You could say that LinkedIn itself is an amazing new tool that none of us could have ever foreseen ten years ago. Boy, it is such an asset for B2B marketers. But around LinkedIn there are some really nifty tools that have arrived. One of my favorites is called “Scout.” It is a way to capture a LinkedIn contact information without actually reaching out and making a direct LinkedIn connection with the person. Scout comes from a company in San Antonio called Stirista and it has a number of competitors, so I know that this is a pretty popular field. But I really like the idea that we can troll around LinkedIn looking for buyers and then whether or not we want to speak to them through LinkedIn. With a tool like Scout we can communicate with them through email or other channels like social media without having that direct connection. So it really gives you a more flexible marketing capability thanks to the self-reported profiles that are available to us on LinkedIn. To me, you know, these interesting and inventive tools just keep coming…not every day necessarily; but so frequently that, of course, it is hard to keep up. But my mouth sure waters also at the power of some of these new tools and the excitement that we all have at our ability to try them out.
Absolutely, thank you for that. So, Ruth, wanted to thank you very much again for your time.
So happy, thank you Dan. Just one last point; if anybody in the audience wants to connect with you, could you maybe provide your contact information or good place to reach out to you.
Certainly…yes, my email is email@example.com and my twitter handle is @RuthPStevens so I welcome contact from any of your listeners and sure have enjoyed getting to know you wish you the very best.
Ruth, thank you so much, and I look forward to chatting with you soon.
Thank you for listening to the B2B Manufacturing Marketing and Executive Podcast. You can find today’s show notes at rhblake.com/podcast that’s rhblake.com/podcast. Today’s show was sponsored by R.H. Blake. A leading B2B and Manufacturing focused Marketing agency. Learn more at rhblake.com.