LinkedIn Buys Bizo: What Does It Mean for B2B Marketing?

We all heard some exciting news this week from our friends at Bizo. After a 6 year journey, they were acquired for $175M by LinkedIn. As fellow travelers serving a growing audience of B2B marketers, we have gotten to know the Bizo folks well.

Both Bizo and Kwanzoo were early participants in the Oracle Appcloud. We have both been innovating where display meets marketing automation. We talk often at industry conferences. We serve mutual B2B customers, with display campaigns on the Bizo network powered by Kwanzoo rich media ads, as well as by Kwanzoo’s use of Bizo data through real-time-bidding (RTB) platforms for our clients.

We think the Bizo acquisition by LinkedIn will impact the overall B2B advertising market in several  interesting ways. While LinkedIn clearly has some strategic goals, we see some tactical disruption in the market that B2B marketers will want to know about. First a quick deal recap.

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Marketo, CrowdFactory and Marketing Automation: What Do Customers Want?

Marketo just acquired CrowdFactory. First, as fellow travelers, we at Kwanzoo would like to congratulate the folks at CrowdFactory upon their successful acquisition! It’s great news for Marketo, CrowdFactory, and their employees and customers.  Marketo plans to build out their social marketing capabilities with CrowdFactory. We wish them the best in that endeavor.

Kwanzoo is a Technology Partner with Eloqua, Marketo and Salesforce.  Besides marketing automation/RPM system providers, Kwanzoo integrates with all the social platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter), as well as display advertising platforms, ad networks and exchanges (Google Display Network, DoubleClick DART, others).

Our work across these partners as well as with both B2B and B2C customers, we think, gives us an interesting perspective on industry dynamics, and where things might be headed. Of course, we might be completely wrong! Predicting the future is a  hazardous business! That said, here’s our take on what’s going on, what remain some BIG unsolved problems for enterprise marketers, and what we think customers really want from marketing automation:

Why did Marketo Buy CrowdFactory?

David Raab has an interesting take on it here. He suggests that given the minimal product and customer overlap, CrowdFactory’s primary value to  Marketo might be to penetrate new B2C accounts, that are looking for contests, sweepstakes, and referral marketing capabilities. Phil Wainewright talks about a potential strategy by Marketo to enable engaging in, and acting on social conversations by customers of a business, an area that also is more of a B2C activity. Marketo has traditionally serviced more B2B customers. So if you agree with what David and Phil suggest, the acquisition appears to be a decision based less on customer “pull” (i.e. current customers asking Marketo to address a critical need quickly) than a strategic decision by Marketo’s Board and Management to go after new customer accounts in a different category (B2C). Does this signal a strategic add-on focus on B2C by Marketo? Are they planning to go broad, and ramp up sales efforts into  B2C in one segment (e.g. SMB) or across segments (Enterprise, Mid-market, SMB)? Only time will tell.

What B2B Customers Want Today

With all the buzz around social marketing and now social marketing automation, we believe what has not changed is the B2B marketer’s strong desire to drive more top-of-funnel leads, and nurture leads even faster, to maximize the value of their marketing automation investment, whether it’s in Eloqua, Marketo or another system. In simple terms, this requires that they address 3 key challenges:

  • Proliferation of channels – B2B marketers we talk to say they want to be able to quickly and easily execute highly effective demand generation campaigns across channels (email, web, social, partner, display, re-targeting, mobile).
  • Better audience segmentation, and Personalization – Marketers want new ways to engage their prospects, and segment their audience across channels. Engagement necessarily means using all available data on a prospect (e.g. identify the prospect’s target account via reverse IP look-up, or match “known” prospects against the marketing automation database) to determine the message, content offer, or promotion. 
  • Break Down Silos with Re-Usable Campaign Assets – Marketers want to quickly re-purpose and reuse a winning campaign concept or approach across marketing systems (whether marketing automation, CRM, CMS, Facebook Pages, community platforms, blogs, 3rd party publisher placements, partner email blasts).

All of these cross-channel challenges remain largely unsolved! In fact, within B2B, we see strong interest from marketers at larger enterprises in optimizing their multi-channel demand generation programs, with advanced capabilities such as progressive profiling, multi-channel lead nurturing, and relationship-based targeting,  all areas where we have been making some focused efforts in partnership with Eloqua. 

What Kwanzoo Brings to Marketo Customers (Post CrowdFactory)

While Kwanzoo also offers a tell-a-friend / referral marketing capability similar to CrowdFactory as one of over 20 ready-to-deploy multi-channel campaign strategies, we do expect Marketo customers may choose to leverage the new native referral marketing capability now available via CrowdFactory. B2B referral marketing, in our experience, has primarily been around driving webinar registrations and conference sales and a lot less around contests and sweepstakes.

We believe Marketo customers will continue to see strong value in adding Kwanzoo into their marketing mix in the following ways:

1. Drive more top-of-funnel leads across channels with smart lead forms, polls/surveys + lead forms, and smart banners with A/B testing
2. Nurture leads faster in the mid-and-lower funnel across channels (including nurturing emails) with rich media polls & surveys.
3. Automated lead capture from paid media campaigns into Marketo for instant lead nurturing emails.
4. Named account IP targeting of interactive ads and smart banners across all channels.

Where Are We Headed?

Here at Kwanzoo, we are talking to marketers everyday. We are all part of an exciting, vibrant space with many new platforms, products and tools that promise to make life easier for marketers. What’s clear, however, is that customers continue to find the process of implementing, and extracting optimal value from marketing automation quite daunting! It’s our humble view that all of us in the industry need to think about the following:

Open Up, Partner To Win:  We need to partner, open up our systems, APIs and data across systems, to gain a greater level of loyalty and trust from our mutual customers. Customers want their problems solved.  And they want it solved now, not months from now.

Do Less, But Do It Well:  Marketers want to know what really works, what can be implemented quickly to deliver results. The 80/20 rule still applies. For every customer, we need to make the 80% that is top-of-mind for them really easy to address.

Fix What’s Still Broken: Marketing automation platforms have a head start on addressing some key issues within traditional B2B marketing. That said, today’s systems continue to take a channel-centric view (website landing pages, and emails). The world has evolved a lot, and there are big, wide swaths that marketers worry about (e.g. display advertising) that remain completely disconnected from marketing automation.

There’s a whole new way marketers today are viewing marketing automation, that’s centered around the prospect, regardless of when, or where, or how they engage with the business or brand. This as opposed to the channel, or set of tactics (e.g. landing pages, email templates) supported by their tool or platform. When they approach things holistically in this way, it becomes possible to re-draw marketing processes in completely new ways that reset the bar on traditional metrics and targets for lead conversions, ROI and revenue.

Imagine capturing a lead inside a banner ad in a display campaign, or a paid placement somewhere. The lead is instantly captured inside your marketing automation system, to drive a triggered lead nurturing email, within 15 minutes of lead capture! This is just one example of how seamless marketers really want their world to be, as they engage with their prospects, customers and partners everyday.

Kwanzoo looks forward to being a part of the journey, as our industry continues to evolve in the coming months.

Conversion Conference 2011 San Francisco – Key Takeaways

We are in the business of improving conversions for our customers. So a conference that’s all about conversions is just about the perfect conference for us! We met lots of fellow marketers and metrics geeks, web design and landing page experts, SEM and PPC gurus. We had many stimulating hallway conversations, got nice little nuggets of insights and tips from practitioners, do-ers, all folks who’ve been there, and done that, and that and that! This blog is a little long, but there is so much good content to share, I went with it.

We spent 2 days up in San Francisco, hangin’ out, mingling, meeting, sharing, learning. I had a chance to present about Multichannel Engagement for Nurturing & Conversions

If you’re a little too busy to flip through the slides, here are the 5 key takeaways that I talked about:

  • “The Power of Interactivity” – Think beyond static banners and landing pages. (Users love to interact).
  • “The Power of Content” – Users will engage if it’s in their best interest. (Does your content reflect that?)
  • “The Power of  the Visual” – The less users need to guess the better. (Say it here, and don’t make me click).
  • The Power of User-Driven Insight” – Qualify upfront, deliver higher relevance and save on costs. (Users will participate and tell you what they want, if you’ll let them. And that saves you money.)
  • “The Power of Incentives” – You’ve got to give something, to get something. (Welcome to the real world!)

And here’s a quick summary of what I got from some of the other key sessions at the Conference:

1. Tim Ash, the Conference Host delivered the Opening Keynote. He talked about Conversions in a Social World, and made the following key points:

  • the Rule of 150:  With a group of 150 or so, formalities are not necessary. Behavior can be controlled on the basis of personal loyalties and direct contacts. With larger groups, this seems impossible.
  • Inconsistency in Social Interactions is undesirable
  • The best kind of Social Commitment (which is valued) is voluntary, public and small
  • Micro-conversions are powerful: Facebook likes, Tweets of a single phrase within a blog post, writing a review, rating a product or service, click-through to another page. As a marketer, it’s then all about driving and facilitating these micro-conversions.
  • Realistic and interactive user experiences (online games, web video, animated characters) are growing rapidly.
  • Social Proof drives adoption.
  • Go wide and deep, and measure everything – reach, engagement, Facebook fans, fan page re-visits, Facebook photo views.
  • Only 0.8% of wall posts in Facebook actually get displayed. Your content must dominate and engage, so it does not get filtered.
  • Figure out the minimum publishable unit of content, and recycle it actively.
  • Make the entire webinar engagement process (act of sign-up, post-webinar commentary) and content (slides, transcript, replay) easily sharable.
  • Make other content forms (blog post comments, e-books) easily sharable. Make e-books downloadable.

2. Mind Games: Brain Science and Conversions by Susan Weinschenk brought some interesting insights around human behavior, with several real-world conversion examples. People do not behave as you might think, whether in the real or the online world! And that has a significant impact on the website design and landing page design that might work for your business. And if anything, it reinforces the need to test your assumptions.

Neuro Web Design: What makes them click

View more webinars from Susan Weinschenk
[This is a related presentation by the same Author or Agency]

3. While I had to miss this one (sorry David and David!) the session on Turbocharging (Google) PPC and Display Ad Landing Pages, and Social Media Advertising: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn by my good friends, David Rodnitzky and David Szetela had great content for anyone looking to optimize conversions via those channels. Contact them, and I am sure they will send you their #ConvCon material.

4. Conversion Optimization at a large company has its own challenges. Seth Berman of Blue Shield of California, James Niehaus of Symantec, Andrés Amézquita of Mattel Inc and Joe Weller of RealNetworks shared interesting insights on what they’ve found works at their companies. Some interesting points:

  • Adapt your conversion to your target visitor. Ensure you are tracking conversions with the right audience. (Andres)
  • Focus on the basics first (Andres)
  • Go for an iterative approach. Small wins. Talk in $$. Get management buy-in.  (Joe Weller)
  • Expect reporting issues. Learn something from each test. Share wins and failures (Joe Weller)
  • Cross functional partnerships are the key to success (James Niehaus, and he lists 10 different groups!)
  • Avoid IT whenever possible, be technical yourself, and get the word out on your wins! (James Niehaus)

5. There were several sessions on optimizing E-Commerce website conversions, including landing page design, reducing shopping cart abandonment with triggered emails, careful lead form design (put that email address field first!). Especially interesting was the LIFT model by Raquel Hirsch of Widerfunnel. She went through a very rigorous approach to formulating a hypothesis for ideas worth testing, and then testing to a higher conversion rate.

The 6 Ways Your Website is Failing and How to Fix It – Chris Goward

[This is a related presentation by the same Author or Agency]

6. My own partner-in-crime at my #ConvCon session was Patrick Bultema of Codebaby. It’s tough to follow Patrick as a Speaker, given how well he can speak in terms of stories that captivate an audience! Patrick talked about the power of driving conversions by engaging users at an intuitive, emotive level. He and Codebaby are pioneering an interesting approach around this, with interactive, digital, characters. Its clearly an approach that takes the experience for users to another level, beyond even online video.

So how would Codebaby’s interactive characters and online video-based engagement contrast with Kwanzoo’s approach to driving multichannel conversions, with highly engaging smart polls & quizzes? That’s a whole different topic, that I thought is worth exploring, as I listened to Patrick. I plan to explore just this topic in a future blog post! (Stay tuned!)

6. The Grand Finale was the closing keynote by Bryan Eisenberg. Confessions of a Conversion Rate Optimizer. Bryan provided the larger context to what we are doing, and pointed out why performance advertising and conversions have always been important, and are now more critical than ever to every online business! High energy, lots of interesting facts and insights. A great way to wrap up the conference, and get us ready to go back into the trenches, and serve our customers!

Looking forward to the next Conversion Conference in New York City, Oct 19-20, 2011!