Introducing Impact Based Marketing approach for B2B Demand Generation – Why, What, and How?

Marketing in B2B companies has always been about getting the attention of the target prospect, building trust, and closing the deal with the sales team. From brand awareness to customer advocacy, the journey involves in building up the trust blocks steadily over a long period of time.

Some fundamental questions that are answered during this process

    1. Who am I in the market and why am I relevant?
    2. Who are my target prospects and how do I get the attention on my products & services?
    3. What channels will help me to reach my target prospect?
    4. How do I take my prospect from discovery to conversion phase?
    5. What factors help in building my trust with the prospect? And what differentiates me from the competition?

As we keep answering, we uncover more questions. This process of continuous discovery is what helps a marketing person to enhance his/her practice.

But, marketing is not new and so why shouldn’t it be governed by a set of standard practices?

If you have that question, you are not alone. A simple answer to that would be “we don’t want it to happen.”

But, why?

Let us first let understand a little deeper on this practice of B2B marketing.

For simplicity, I will stick to broader shifts without diving into finer details of each of the phases.

Evolution of B2B Marketing

Marketing, since age old days, has been about educating the clients. In early 1990s and before, most buy-side companies depend on the sales folks for information. Buyers invite sales folks, from different companies, to get to know about the varied solutions in the market that can address their problem. If you had seen the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” you would be able to relate to the way Will Smith tried to educate and sell his medical scanners to hospitals. If not direct sales teams, the next best source of information was through events and conferences.

Since late 1990s, we arrived at a phase where agencies like Analysts, Media, and Research companies play a major role in educating companies. They come as brokers of information with a sound understanding of the technological landscape, both from the buy-side companies and vendors. A few even had a 2 way commercial model – for sourcing information from vendors and presenting it to the clients. The agencies in-turn garner information and position the participating companies through a capability assessment which is then presented to the buy-side companies in the form of a report or consulting. If a vendor features in such reports, there is a high chance of getting noticed by the buyers. Media companies, on the other hand, used the model of sponsored branded content from vendors to promote and educate buy-side companies on the market landscape.

With the rapid adoption of the internet and smart phones, the scenario evolved dramatically. It enabled companies to reach out to their clients directly in their digital mediums – emails, social media, search engines, etc.. Vendor companies, in a pursuit to move up the competition pyramid, started positioning themselves as thought leaders by creating educational assets in the form of articles, Whitepapers, webinars, etc., that can then become a direct source of information to the clients. Meanwhile, on the buy-side, the freely accessible repository transitioned them from seekers of information to informed buyers.

Brands, today, are trusted more than some of the best media companies for insights, owing to their expertise and experience they have in their field of operations.

Customer Centricity became the focus:

The rise of digital media enabled not just access for the vendor companies to be visible in front of its buyers, but also enabled the buy-side companies to evaluate multiple vendors offering similar products and services, across the globe.

The channels of engagement, on the other hand, also moved from a mono-channel era to multi-channel and now to omni-channel levels of engagement.

Image Source: McKinsey & Company

The availability and accessibility of choice for buyers propelled vendor companies to design experiences that would delight their potential clients.

The digital mediums also opened up the ability to measure the outcomes of each promotional activity. Tools like Google analytics, Marketing automation, CRM, etc. help marketers to measure every aspect of the customer journey. From campaigns to outcomes, the metrics form the feedback look for continuous enhancement for vendor companies.

This change in dynamics at both buy-side companies and vendors has brought customer centricity as the core focus for vendor companies even in B2B marketing – to design experiences that would delight the clients all the way from the phase of discovery to engagement and retention.

Time for Impact based Marketing for Demand Generation:

In the age of digital, marketing function became the primary source of noise in the market. The scope to reach the client directly opened up a tsunami of promotional activities from vendors to buy-side companies. The focus has shifted to being and doing “More and Most”.

The availability and ability to measure the performance of each asset and activity often lead marketers to a situation of analysis paralysis. Today, marketers run after hundreds of vanity metrics, mainly because it is available or passed through the hierarchy or the market leaders follows it or competition tracks it or… the list goes on.

In short, we don’t run short of options to measure.

To align with the theme of customer centricity, companies need to transition towards personalization of marketing practices, and be agile and cognizant of the impact of its activities.

Impact based marketing is nothing beyond the literal meaning. It is a methodology and culture to continuously focus on creating meaningful impacts in all forms of engagement.

It is about identifying and strategizing the components of the marketing elements to achieve the desired impact.

It is neither a structured process nor standard practice, but a culture and focus towards being aligned to the core objectives, and to continuously evolve the practices based on demands of the organization and market.

Align with Outcomes:

Every marketing activity should be tied to an outcome. The outcome expected should be derivative of the core objective of the overall practice – be it MQLs / SALs / Revenue / Market share / Brand reach / etc.. If you are not sure or don’t know the outcome of an activity, rather not have it in your plan of action.

Identify specific channels of promotion where there is scope of making an impact – use the Pareto rule 80/20 to relieve channels from your action plan.

“Less is the new More”

Choose between Branding through Business and Business through Branding:

If you are a small or mid-size company it is better to focus branding through business generation. Branding activities come at a huge cost to compete and get the customer mind share amidst the existing big brands. Inbound marketing practice can help companies in crossing this chasm.

For business leaders and disruptive / well-funded startups branding activities will more often lead to business generation. Example: When GE wanted to be a leader in digital transformation and Industry 4.0 initiatives, it started with brand repositioning to digital industrial company.

Humanize the Brand Experience:

To connect with the customer, the brand should evoke an emotion (an adjective). The design, content, and the channels of promotion should consistently reflect the emotion for long periods of time to make it stick with the prospect.

For example, if you choose your brand adjective as “Innovative” – does it consistently reflect the feel in all your messaging, design, and promotion?

Move from Persona to Person based Content:

Personas are good to start with, but quickly becomes a cliché term in marketing team discussions. Creating a virtual persona does not often connect in tangible terms with the content team, specifically in a B2B context. There is no direct attributable feedback on the content effectiveness. Neither is the scope for personalization of the content.

With the focus towards customer centricity and with the ability to reach the prospect directly through digital mediums, it is essential to personalize and create content specifically for the prospect to measure the impact.

Measure only What You Need and What You Can Act Upon:

Like mentioned earlier, it is easier to be swayed by the urge to track everything. Focus on everything means there is no focus. Track only the outcomes and the prime influencers of the outcome. For example, measuring the overall website traffic doesn’t make any sense if you are targeting a specific demographic region for the majority of your business.

Align your Team Culture towards Creating Meaning Impacts:

To align the team to Impact based marketing, there is a need to focus on 3 key aspects

Outcome based: Are all the activities tied coherently to the agreed outcomes? If not, throw it away.

Time bound: Is there a definitive timeframe within which we can measure the impact of the activity? If not, don’t take it.

Work for Excellence: Is the activity done with the spirit of achieving excellence? If not, redo it.

To stay distinct and be able to scale in this over-crowded B2B marketplace, companies should focus on doing fewer things right – creating meaningful impacts and engagements with its prospects and customers. Impact based marketing is a methodology to help B2B companies to stay agile, customize their marketing practices, and continually evolve with the rapidly changing market dynamics.

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Understand the Color Psychology to Enhance User Experience (UX) in Website Design

Colors for User Experience Design*This article is reproduced from my post in LinkedIn Pulse

With the explosion of digital media in recent years, over communication has become a trend and started causing fatigue in the mind of the audience. Billions of brands, trillions of data and countless choices to make – user hardly has time to understand, decipher and analyze the content available to them in the applications or websites. The increased usage of mobile based browsing also limits the content available on the screen. Hence skimming on websites and applications has become the trend; while the focus for attention has shifted to presentation and the ‘perceived’ content value.

Colors have an incredible psychological effect and play a huge role in defining the perception in the mind of the viewer. It also helps in channelizing the user behavior on the content in the application. “Color is ubiquitous and is a source of information. People make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62‐90 percent of the assessment is based on colors alone.”(Source: Impact of Color on Marketing)

The psychology of colors is one of the most researched topics for the marketers and brand evangelists. It has been put to extensive practice by both big and small brands in an effort to communicate their message effectively to the audience. More often than not, the misunderstanding of the colors results in inappropriate use of color combinations which results in seeding an unanticipated perception in the mind of the user. It is important to understand the logic behind the meaning of a color to deploy it in the right manner.

  • Why Blue is widely used color in Professional world?
  • Why Telecom and Television News companies predominantly use Red as their Logo?
  • Why do Hospitals use Green and White colors?

Understanding the color psychology plays a huge role in designing a good user experience and engaging them with the company messaging and branding. It helps in channelizing the user behavior to make the right impact for your content.

Understanding Colors & Associations:

Each color has a meaning based on the ethnography and preferences of the user. Colors alone may not be able to holistically define the personality, but helps in making snap judgmental calls from the user. It helps in defining the personality elements such as sincerity, excitement, competence, ruggedness, sophistication etc. Every color has positive and negative connotations and when used in right manner will trigger the desired emotion from the user. The meaning for the colors is associated from what we see and perceive in our day-to -day lives.

Psychological Properties of Colors Example:

BLUE – Where do we see it often? Seas, Oceans and Sky (Brings calmness to our feelings)

Positive Messages – Trust, Intelligence, Serenity, Duty, Logic, Coolness, Calm
Negative Messages – Aloofness, Coldness, Unfriendliness

RED – Where do we see it often? Red Signal Lights & Stop Signs (Alert), Blood (Act Quick)

Positive Messages: Energy, Youthful, Physical courage, Strength, Stimulation, Excitement
Negative Messages: Alert, Defiance, Aggression, Revolt, Strain

GREEN – Where do we see it often? Green Plants & Herbs (Nature, Cure) & Green Signal (All Good, Continue)

Positive Messages: Environmental, Nature, Harmony, Refreshment, Rest, Restoration, Peace
Negative Messages: Stagnation, Boredom, Blandness, Enervation

Colors that are not often seen in the nature tend to stand out from the crowd and hence you often find colors like Violet and Pink (as seen in some flowers) been used for creative messaging. Color Orange is generally associated with the feelings from dawn and dusk or fruits and hence may communicate the cheerful emotion. Yellow being associated with the Sun, Land, Yellow Signal, and Highlighter – hence may communicates the warmth and importance tag with it. Each color derives its emotion quotient based on what we see and perceive in our daily lives.

Channelizing Colors for User Experience

Colors help in User Experience design in 2 different ways: 1) Attention Gathering 2) Emotion Trigger.

Bright colors can be used to direct the attention of the user to the desired location on the application. Soft colors can be used in places to communicate the information to the user. The prominence of the color is only based on the background (Contrast effect). Soft colors usually trigger the mental activity while the bright colors tend to initiate the physical emotions from the user.

White background are generally used to enhance the text and image clarity, while a black background can be used to put a spot light on a flagship item. Apple Inc. uses White, Grey and Black cohesively to enhance the classiness of its products and brand image.

Let us understand the channelizing of a user experience with an example. Let us say we want more number of users clicking on a “Continue” button in a “Registration” form.

1) An Orange color “Continue” button in a form with a soft color background will gather attention

2) The “Continue” button will stand out even better when the cancel button next to it is toned down / nullified

3) Now by the changing the color of the button from Orange to Green – this brings a nexus between the Green (Emotion – all good) and the message “Continue”, and hence the chance of click may further increase.

Note: The above example is to give a perspective and is subjective to the type of the application and the preference of the user. It is recommended to do an A/B testing to determine the right colors for the call-to-action buttons.

While colors do play an important role in user journey, it is even more important for the colors to be relevant and consistent with the brand personality – Stay Unique, Stay Consistent, Stay Refreshing.

It is a colorful world but Classiness matter more than the Flashiness to enhance user adoption. Understanding the audience preferences, channelizing the user quickly to the right location in the application or websites and instilling the anticipated emotion become a necessity to stand ahead in this over-crowded digital world.